All posts tagged: marijuana reform

The Cannabis Chronicles: A Brief Legal History of Cannabis

The Cannabis Chronicles

1906:
Congress passes the Pure Food and Drug Act. Cannabis is regulated as a drug.
1910:
Congress lists cannabis as a narcotic and regulates it as a poisonous substance. Various states begin regulating marijuana in the following years, adding it to a list of “habit forming drugs”.
1930’s:
In 1930, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics is formed, headed by Harry J. Anslinger, causing increased scrutiny of cannabis use.
Anslinger was a virulent racist who saw marijuana regulation as a weapon to use against African Americans, Hispanics and other groups he deemed undesirable, including certain entertainers like Jazz musicians. His agency churned out most of the “Reefer Madness” propaganda we now find laughably outrageous.
The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 made possession and transfer of cannabis illegal except for medical and industrial uses. Cannabis was now being regulated and taxed, putting the United States in the weed business.
In 1938, Congress passes the Pure Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, resulting in the creation of the Food and Drug Administration. Marijuana remains listed as a “dangerous drug”.
1940’s
During World War II, the need for hemp saw the government encouraging farmers to cultivate more hemp than ever before. Yet the medical efficacy of cannabis was still ignored.
In 1947, the DuPont corporation invented nylon, which competed with hemp as a fiber material, resulting in an end to hemp cultivation by the mid-1950’s.
1950’s
Things got much worse for cannabis in the 1950’s when Congress instituted severe mandatory sentences for a variety of drugs, including cannabis. The penalty for cannabis possession as of 1956 became a minimum 2-10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
1960’s
The decade most associated with drug use is ironically the decade of virtually no anti-drug legislation. This would all change after the election of Richard Nixon in 1968.
1970’s
In 1970, the Nixon administration went to war on drugs beginning with the Controlled Substances Act and the creation of the Schedule List for drugs, which identified cannabis as Schedule 1– along with drugs like Heroin– as having the greatest potential for abuse and no medicinal value. In 1973, the DEADrug Enforcement Administration— was formed, and the War on Drugs was truly on.
1980’s
The 1980’s saw the criminal penalties associated with drugs become much harsher under the Reagan administration with the institution of mandatory minimum sentences and the “Three Strikes Rule”. First Lady Nancy Reagan led an anti-drug crusade with increased propaganda– primarily aimed at children and teens– flooding the airwaves. Remember the egg frying while a somber voice intoned, “This is your brain on drugs” commercials?
1990’s
California Proposition 215, passed in 1996, changed everything by legalizing medicinal cannabis in that state. Over the next two decades, other states followed suit, bringing us to the present.
The Present
Currently, there are 29 states with some form of medical and/or recreational use protections for cannabis. States like Colorado are generating huge tax benefits from legal weed while experiencing a net decline in opioid abuse and teen drug use overall. Unfortunately, the appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions has cast a cloud of concern on cannabis legalization.

The fight goes on.

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Vinni BelfioreThe Cannabis Chronicles: A Brief Legal History of Cannabis
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The DEA Ignores Congress and Declares War on Hemp

When Congress passed the 2014 Farm Bill, they included industrial hemp as a legitimate agricultural concern.  The bill they passed allowed for research and crops grown by educational facilities and allowed states to determine what private parties could participate.

The Farm Bill defines hemp (Cannabis Ruderalis) as a plant that is separate from marijuana (Cannabis Sativa).  This determination is  based on the  lack of THC and no psychoactive components in hemp.  They defined the level of THC as being, “not more than .03 percent THC”, a level that is far below what it takes to produce a psychoactive effect.  The legislation purposely included ALL parts of the plant, including the flower, and any derivative thereof. This implicitly recognizes that the plant by itself requires processing in order to be of any value. That includes CBD extract.

Hemp CBD has no psychoactive effects and may have medicinal benefits.  Any potential medicinal value of hemp is for the FDA to determine, not the DEA.  Additionally, the DEA is not a law making agency. They have absolutely no authority to make the law.  Their authority is to enforce the laws made by Congress.   It is not within the scope of their power to reinterpret, redefine or dilute the law in any way.  And yet, that is exactly what the DEA is attempting to do.  In essence, the DEA is telling Congress, “We get to decide what the law you passed means, not you.”

Congress was very explicit in the wording of the Farm Bill, yet the DEA is attempting to circumvent the intent of the law.  Congress was definitely addressing the necessary processes of turning Hemp into various products. They specifically included ALL parts of the plant, including the flower, which is where CBD extracts come from.

As stated above, the DEA is a regulatory agency with no legislative authority whatsoever, yet they decided to ignore the stated intent of the Farm Bill by parsing the language to suit their own agenda, which in this instance resulted in their classification of CBD as a controlled substance.

The whole issue is now in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  An Amicus Brief has been filed by 28 Senators and Congresspersons in support of the plaintiff in Hemp Industries Association v. Drug Enforcement Administration. It is clear Congress will not let the DEA get away with what is a case of over-reach on their part.  We’re keeping a close eye this case as it has far reaching implications.

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Vinni BelfioreThe DEA Ignores Congress and Declares War on Hemp
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A Busy Opening Week for Medicinal Cannabis

A sampling of Cresco Yeltrah products.

The first week of Medicinal Cannabis sales in Pennsylvania is complete, and it was booming.

In fact, dispensaries were so busy demand exceeded supply.

Cresco Yeltrah is the only grow facility which was able to provide products at the current time, and dispensaries went through their first shipment in 3 days.

CY Plus is a Cresco Yeltrah dispensary located in Butler PA, and was the first dispensary to open their doors.

Cannabis Legal Solutions partner Patrick K. Nightingale was the third patient served at CY Plus and consequently was also the third patient in the state of Pennsylvania to receive medication under the new medicinal cannabis law.

Here in Allegheny county, Solevo, located in Squirrel Hill (Pittsburgh) opened their doors on Tuesday and also went through their stock as well.

(At the time of this writing, both dispensaries should be restocked.)

Theresa Nightingale, Patrick’s wife and Chairperson of the Pittsburgh NORML Women’s Alliance, was one of the first patients served at Soleva’s dispensary, which is only a couple blocks from her residence.

Both reported very professional treatment and impressive facilities and the quality of the product was first rate according to the  Nightingales.

Prices were a little higher than expected in Butler, but this is probably a reflection of the lower patient population in that area of Pennsylvania and is something that will level out as more producers come online and the marketplace stabilizes itself over the coming months.

There are still some unanswered questions regarding medicinal cannabis in Pennsylvania, and over the next couple months, many will no doubt be answered.

One of the biggest concerns we’re hearing from potential patients is how having a medical cannabis card will affect gun ownership. It will not affect guns patients already own however, it does mean patients will not be able to purchase additional firearms.

The ATF form for gun purchases requires disclosing use of any controlled substance, including marijuana. Lying on the form is a felony, so we strongly advise patients to purchase any new firearms prior to getting their card.

Of course, the only way to change this situation is to reschedule marijuana from schedule 1 to schedule 2. Cannabis Legal Solutions encourages Pennsylvanians to contact their representatives in the House and Senate and tell them you believe the law needs to change.

The need is real. Twenty nine states now have some form of legalized cannabis, either recreational  and/or medical. Our elected officials can not continue to ignore the winds of change sweeping the nation.

Law abiding citizens should not be under the treat of prosecution by the Federal government for taking medicine that is legal in the state in which they reside.

The overwhelming demand exhibited on opening week shows there is a significant portion of the population who needs this important medication.

That’s a decision that should be left to patients and their primary care physicians, not the federal government.

We are rapidly approaching the inescapable conclusion that the Federal government needs to take action on this, instead of kicking these very real problems down the road.

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Vinni BelfioreA Busy Opening Week for Medicinal Cannabis
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Fentanyl: The True Gateway Drug

Prince

Lil’ Peep

Tom Petty

Delores O’Riordan

All were famous musicians… ‘rock stars’, as it were.

All of them overdosed.

Not the cliche’ heroin OD with a dirty needle in a seedy setting like so many rock stars have done in the past.

They were taking a prescribed drug. A drug that doctors apparently pass out with little regard for the potential consequences. A drug from which pharmaceutical companies reap profits that rival a cartel.

All of them are now dead and all were killed by Fentanyl.

Tom Petty, who was prescribed this medication for chronic pain from a broken hip, simply wanted to keep touring, and the pain was preventing him from performing. Unfortunately, the potential for abuse with any pain killing medications is a real concern. With Fentanyl, it is especially so.

Fentanyl is a highly addictive and extremely powerful drug that mimics the effects of heroin. It is regularly mixed with heroin because it is very cheap to manufacture, significantly increasing the potential profits of dealing heroin. The Federal Government estimates as much as 70% of the heroin they seize is now laced with Fentanyl.

And while the tragedy surrounding the untimely deaths of beloved musical icons is painful, it is a drop in the bucket of death when compared with loss of life among the thousands of average people who have died because of this scourge.

This is truly a problem of epic proportions for society as a whole, and it’s being caused by the very people and agencies who are supposed to be looking out for, We, the People.

Fentanyl prescriptions almost always lead to abuse, and once the prescription runs out, people who have become addicted often turn to illegal substances like heroin to fill their need.

Talk about a Gateway Drug!

And it’s FDA approved.

The Federal government thinks marijuana is a problem, but Fentanyl is okay.

The facts make this position untenable.

The arguments against legalization of marijuana are becoming increasingly absurd, bordering on delusional.

The government is playing both sides of the street, and they’re getting away with it.

The United States holds a patent on marijuana as a medicine for the treatment of cancer and brain trauma, yet marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug, on par with heroin, because according to the patent holder, it has no medical efficacy.

We’ll wait a moment while you read that last paragraph again.

It can be fairly stated that at this point, the fox is truly guarding the hen house.

And meanwhile, thousands continue to die while the FDA, Attorney General, DEA and Congress continue to ignore the mounting evidence that Fentanyl is deadly and marijuana is truly the least toxic and safest of all recreational drugs. In fact, in states where marijuana is legal, the rates of opioid abuse have actually decreased by as much as 25%.

If there is a Gateway Drug, Fentanyl is it, and the gate keeper is the United States government.

This is madness and it needs to stop.

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Vinni BelfioreFentanyl: The True Gateway Drug
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Marijuana Arrests on the Rise in Pennsylvania

On October 17, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced the first medical marijuana grow facility is ready to start growing marijuana.

The PA Department of Health has approved Cresco Yeltrah to begin growing and processing at their facility in Jefferson County, PA.

Ironically, we currently have a case in Jefferson county which concerns someone who legally purchased a bag of edibles (gummies) in the State of California and is being charged with Possession with Intent to Deliver in Jefferson county– a very serious charge. Unfortunately Jefferson county officials are not as open minded about marijuana use as the location of a professional grow in their county would imply.

A marijuana arrest can follow a person their entire life, negatively affecting their ability to work, find housing and even to travel out of country.

While we see marijuana arrests declining in cities like Philadelphia, which decriminalized marijuana possession last year, and Pittsburgh, which has an unofficial decriminalization policy that results in a citation, the statewide numbers are increasing.

Between 2010 and 2016, marijuana related arrests have risen by 33% in Pennsylvania.

Even more alarming, African Americans are EIGHT times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites.

The fact is, usage rates among black and white citizens are about the same, yet the chart below makes it clear black citizens are being  targeted by law enforcement in a disproportionate way.

Source: American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania

Regarding the new facility in Jefferson county, the Governor said the number one priority is getting medicine to the Pennsylvanians who need it.

While we applaud the Governor’s concern for patients, we can’t help but wonder why his concern for the citizens of Pennsylvania seemingly does not extend to citizens who face life long consequences for merely possessing marijuana.

According to Governor Wolf, full decriminalization and or legalization is, “not on the table” at this time.

In light of this new data, and the fact that Governor Wolf has been a vocal proponent of more sensible marijuana policies, we would ask Governor Wolf to reconsider if maybe now is the time to move forward with decriminalization of marijuana.

This is not something he can simply sign into existence, but it is something he can and should take the lead on.

From a strictly financial view, a plan for legalizing marijuana could bring in millions in revenue for Pennsylvania’s empty coffers, creating a budget surplus that would benefit all the citizens of Pennsylvania.

From a humanitarian view, that revenue could be used to help alleviate the increasing opiate crisis here at home, offering treatment options and education for young people to avoid getting hooked on these very dangerous drugs.

When a group of citizens is being singled out for arrest, apparently based on race, there is a problem for all the citizens of Pennsylvania.

Justice is, after all, supposed to be blind.

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Vinni BelfioreMarijuana Arrests on the Rise in Pennsylvania
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Patrick Nightingale Hosts West Virginia Cannabis Seminar

Patrick Nightingale displays his medical marijuana card, issued by the state of California

The first ever West Virginia medical cannabis seminar was held in Morgantown, WV., September 30 with Cannabis Legal Solutions founding partner Patrick Nightingale hosting the event.

CLS is a proud sponsor of WV Cannabis Seminar

Although West Virginia’s medicinal law is very similar to Pennsylvania, there are some differences, most notably in that there are a couple qualifying medical conditions West Virginia does not include.

Naturally, there are also state and local laws in West Virginia regarding things like zoning that may vary as well.

In addition, the actual number of available licenses is smaller in West Virginia due to a smaller population in that state.

Ultimately, Cannabis Legal Solutions has the knowledge and experience to guide our clients through the process of getting licensed, ensuring complete compliance, setting up your business, including real estate and contract legal matters, and assisting with the legalities of day to day operations in both Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

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Vinni BelfiorePatrick Nightingale Hosts West Virginia Cannabis Seminar
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Fix PAT with Pot

Pennsylvania is experiencing a budget crisis. No shock there. The state has been experiencing budget shortfalls for what seems like forever.

This morning, WTAE TV 4, Pittsburgh, is reporting on proposed legislation in the state House that would significantly cut funding for public transportation. The cuts would have a catastrophic effect on Pittsburgh public transportation.

The Port Authority of Allegheny county could lose as much as $100 million between the loss of funding coupled with the loss of revenue the proposed cuts would cost PAT through discontinued routes and service cuts.

It would mean a significant loss of jobs as well, forcing layoffs for a substantial number of PAT employees.

The loss of evening and weekend service would leave thousands in Pittsburgh without the means to get to and from work, school, doctor appointments, grocery shopping, etc. It would force PAT to raise rates (that are already among the highest in the nation) to levels that would disproportionately impact the poor and disenfranchised, as well as senior citizens who depend on buses and the T to get around town, and would leave many people stranded in outlying communities, where getting a cab or Uber is not a financially viable option for them.

There are an estimated 1 million marijuana users in Pennsylvania who spent an estimated $2.3 billion on illegal weed last year.

Translation: Pennsylvania missed out on approximately $585 million in tax revenue. That’s just one year.

That’s money that could easily solve many of Pennsylvania’s budget woes. It’s money that could go to educate kids, treatment for addiction, infrastructure repairs and, yes, keep the buses and trains running on time.

And that figure does not include the savings to law enforcement and the justice system from not prosecuting and incarcerating citizens for marijuana. It would allow them to focus on truly dangerous drugs like heroin and meth.

The state of Pennsylvania already sells alcohol. Why not marijuana? The most harmless and least toxic intoxicant there is.

 

 

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Vinni BelfioreFix PAT with Pot
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Patient Advocacy Needs to Take Center Stage

Patrick Nightingale testifying at the Pennsylvania State House.

The passage of Pennsylvania’s Act 16 medicinal cannabis act has generated a lot of interest among the business and legal communities, offering many opportunities for a wide variety of professionals.

And it’s not just growers and dispensaries, either.

Contractors, real estate developers, lighting suppliers, medical equipment manufacturers, staffing agencies and many others have jumped into the game.

This is a multi-million dollar industry that is offering many lucrative business possibilities, yet in the rush to generate profits, it’s important those of us in this rapidly growing field bear in mind why we’re all here: Getting patients medicine they desperately need.

Cannabis Legal Services is literally built on a long track record of patient advocacy. We are extremely proud of the central role founding partner Patrick Nightingale played in bringing Act 16 to life, and it’s important we as a firm continue to be a leading voice defending the rights of patients and their doctors to choose how they treat their medical conditions.

We encourage anyone getting into the medicinal marijuana industry to make patient advocacy central in their core business philosophy.

After all, patients who need medicine are the reason we’re all in this business in the first place.

Mr. Nightingale is available for speaking engagements to assist you in educating your employees and staff.  We’ll offer sound advice and counseling when it comes to patients rights, as well as advice regarding the continually evolving business landscape of Pennsylvania’s Act 16.

Email info@cannabislegalsolutions.net for more information on booking Mr. Nightingale to be a speaker at your next business meeting or event.

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Vinni BelfiorePatient Advocacy Needs to Take Center Stage
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Beware Of Charlatans and Snake Oil Salesmen – PA’s Medical Marijuana Law is still in its Infancy

marijuana law reformAs Pennsylvania implements Act 16, Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law, there has necessarily been a lot of excitement, a lot of interest, and a lot of people trying to find ways to make money.  The grow and dispensary licenses have been referred to as “a license to print money.”  While that may or may not be true, there are clearly many opportunities to participate in the medical cannabis marketplace.

Unfortunately, we have seen some unscrupulous individuals trying to “cash in” on the hopes and ignorance of sick Pennsylvanians.  I have seen physicians advertising that they can make medical marijuana recommendations for Pennsylvania patients.  These physicians will charge a consultation fee and allegedly provide some type of assessment and recommendation.

This may sound good at first glance, but it is illegal under Act 16.  Act 16 provides specific rules for physicians who want to recommend medical cannabis for their patients.  First and foremost, a physician MUST register with the Department of Health.  A physician can only do that AFTER completing a 4 hour training course that has yet to be developed.  Until a physician completes the training course and registers with the Department he or she CANNOT make a medical cannabis recommendation.  Additionally, Act 16 specifically prohibits a physician from advertising that they can make a medical cannabis recommendation.

I know Pennsylvania patients are desperate to legally access Pennsylvania produced medical cannabis products.  Our patient population must know that these individuals are simply defrauding them.  If a potential patient wants to know whether they may qualify for a medical cannabis recommendation they need look no further than the Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Website.

Similarly, there has been a significant amount of confusion and undue optimism about “legal” CBD oil readily available in Pennsylvania.

CBD is cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid in both cannabis sativa and its derivatives (marijuana) and cannabis ruderalis (hemp).  Some hemp derived products, such as hemp clothing, hemp seeds and hemp milk, are legally sold in the United States.  The source material is grown overseas and the processed or refined products are sold in the US.

CBD oil extracted from hemp plants has been gaining in popularity and has been marketed as “legal in all 50 states.”  Unfortunately, it is considered a Schedule I controlled substance by the DEA because it has trace amounts of THC (one could not possibly get “high”, but its enough to trigger the Schedule I classification).  Additionally, the CBD oil being sold is extracted from plants grown overseas.  Unlike Act 16 with strict testing protocols and pesticide restrictions a patient has absolutely no idea what conditions the hemp plants were grown in.  The source plants could have mold, pesticides, commercial fertilizers, etc.  Compare and contrast that with a CBD oil produced in Colorado such as Quicksilver which is produced under highly regulated conditions and subject to strict third party testing.

Pennsylvania patients are anxious to participate in Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program.  Unfortunately they must wait for the program to be fully implemented, for physicians to register with the program, and for licensed grows and dispensaries to offer high quality medicines, whether CBD or THC.

Until then, beware the Charlatans and Snake Oil.

Patrick K. Nightingale, Esq.

Executive Director, Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society

www.pamcs.org

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Patrick NightingaleBeware Of Charlatans and Snake Oil Salesmen – PA’s Medical Marijuana Law is still in its Infancy
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President Trump and Legalization: What Now?

Since the election of President Trump, we have received many questions about how this could impact the legalization of Marijuana.

So far, nothing definitive has been said by this administration on the subject, and Trump himself has been ambiguous as to the future of legalization.

In the past, Trump has said that he feels it’s an issue that should be determined on a state by state basis. This would suggest his administration may continue the “look the other way” approach of the previous administration.

But what about our new Attorney General?

There is widespread concern regarding the nomination and expected confirmation of Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) for Attorney General, as many people feel his confirmation does not bode well for the legalization movement.

Sessions has repeatedly made it clear that he is against any attempts to reschedule marijuana, and has hinted he would go after anyone breaking federal law, which ultimately supersedes state law.

How this will impact states where there has been reform is difficult to say. Will Sessions shut down states with full legalization like Colorado? Will he go after medicinal states as well?

At this time, we just don’t know.

Legalized marijuana, both medicinal and recreational, is currently a six billion dollar industry, and that doesn’t include California’s recent legalization of recreational use.

A majority of states already have some type of reform in place– medicinal, decriminalization and/or recreational use. Whether or not this administration is prepared to absorb the financial repercussions of prosecution remains to be seen.

Beyond that, the loss of tax revenue, and the overall economic impact of shutting down one of the fastest growing industries in the country, would give anyone pause.

And that is the one hopeful aspect of all this. President Trump is a businessman who ultimately recognizes a good deal when he sees one.

Let’s all hope “The Art of the Deal” is more than just a book title.

 

Click Here for a complete state by state listing for medical and recreational marijuana reform information.

 

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Patrick NightingalePresident Trump and Legalization: What Now?
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