House Judiciary Passes MORE Act to Decriminalize Marijuana at Federal Level

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Nov 20, 2019

Washington, D.C. –Today, the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, by a vote of 24-10. The MORE Act is one of the most comprehensive marijuana reforms bills ever introduced in the U.S. Congress. The MORE Act aims to correct the historical injustices of failed drug policies that have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income communities by decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level, reassessing marijuana convictions, and investing in local communities. U.S. Senator Kamala Harris introduced the companion bill in the Senate.

Yesterday, Chairman Nadler and other Members of Congress held a press conference to highlight the legislation. Watch here.

“I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake, and the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake,” said Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). “While states have led the way in reform, our federal laws have not kept pace with the obvious need for change. With the passage of the MORE Act today, the Judiciary Committee has taken long overdue steps to address the devastating injustices caused by the War on Drugs and to finally decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.”
“As more states legalize marijuana, millions of Americans with marijuana-related convictions continue to face overwhelming barriers to jobs, education, and housing,” said Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA). “That is why we must act to remove the burden of marijuana convictions and make sure these individuals have the support needed to move forward. It is also critical that everyone — especially people of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs — has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry. This is a matter of racial and economic justice. I am grateful for Chairman Nadler’s partnership on this issue and for his leadership in moving this legislation forward. I look forward to the House of Representatives passing our legislation soon.”

“This is an incredible step forward in righting the wrongs of the failed and racist War on Drugs. The federal government has lagged behind as states continue to modernize how we regulate and decriminalize cannabis. As Co-Chair of the bipartisan Cannabis Caucus, I’ll keep pushing to ensure Congress makes our cannabis policies are fair, equitable, and inclusive,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). “I applaud Chairman Nadler for his leadership, and look forward to seeing the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act get a vote on the House floor.”

“This will be one of the most historic events in our movement,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). “The MORE Act is the most comprehensive cannabis legislation to date. I am proud to have worked with Chairman Nadler to develop this bill and applaud his leadership to bring it in front of the committee. This is a major step forward. We are making outstanding progress in our blueprint to end the federal prohibition of cannabis and address the injustice brought on by the war on drugs.”

“With today’s mark-up of the MORE Act, the United States is coming one step closer to ending the devastating harms of marijuana prohibition, which have fallen so heavily on Black and Brown people,” said Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “This legislation won’t make up for the full scale of harm that prohibition has caused to its victims. It’s not going to return anyone their lost dreams, time lost at the mercy of the criminal justice system; or the years spent away from their families. But this legislation is the closest we’ve come yet to not only ending those harms at the federal level, but also beginning to repair them. Now it’s up to Congress to do the right thing and swiftly pass the bill to ensure justice is not delayed a moment longer.”
“We’re thrilled that House Judiciary made history today by voting the MORE Act out of Committee,” said Ed Chung, Vice President for Criminal Justice Reform at American Progress. “This represents a significant victory for marijuana reform and for communities of color that have borne the brunt of this country’s punitive drug enforcement policies. The House must build on today’s momentum and swiftly move the MORE Act to the floor for a vote from the full body. Congress has an extraordinary opportunity to ensure equity leads today’s marijuana reform policy.”

“The House Judiciary Committee’s consideration of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act is a significant step towards ending the failed war on drugs and correcting some of the harms that it has caused,” said Charlotte Resing, Policy Analyst, ACLU. “The bill not only deschedules marijuana at the federal level, but it also provides a roadmap for states to legalize in a just and equitable manner. The MORE Act also provides resentencing and expungement for those with marijuana convictions and mandates the inclusion of those most impacted by the criminalization of marijuana in the newly legal marijuana industry. The ACLU is pleased to support the MORE Act and its efforts to counter the over-criminalization, over policing, and mass incarceration stemming from the war on drugs.”

“The passage of the MORE Act represents the first time that the Judiciary Committee has ever had a successful vote to end the cruel policy of marijuana criminalization,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “Not only does the bill reverse the failed prohibition of cannabis, but it provides pathways for opportunity and ownership in the emerging industry for those who have suffered most. In 2018 alone, over 663,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana related crimes, a three-year high. Now that Chairman Nadler has moved the MORE Act through committee, it is time for the full House to vote and have every member of Congress show their constituents which side of history they stand on.”

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act:

  • Decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level by removing the substance from the Controlled Substances Act. This applies retroactively to prior and pending convictions, and enables states to set their own policy.
  • Requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions, allows prior offenders to request expungement, and requires courts, on motion, to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.
  • Authorizes the assessment of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund, which includes three grant programs:
    • The Community Reinvestment Grant Program: Provides services to the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, including job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, youth recreation, mentoring, and substance use treatment. 
    • The Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program: Provides funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
    • The Equitable Licensing Grant Program: Provides funds for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
  • Opens up Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers.
  • Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense:
    • Prohibits the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense.
    • Provides that the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense, will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.
  • Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.

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SOURCE

S. 2227: MORE Act of 2019

LINK TO DOWNLOAD PDF

Leahy Wants Clarification on State Marijuana Laws

  • By John Gramlich
  • Roll Call Staff
  • Dec. 13, 2012, 5:36 p.m
  • Leahy pressed the administration on how it will react to new state drug laws.

     

    Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy is asking the Obama administration to clarify its position on the recreational use of marijuana, which two states legalized by referendum Nov. 6 but remains illegal under federal law.

    The Vermont Democrat on Thursday released a letter he sent to Office of National Drug Control Policy Director R. Gil Kerlikowske on Dec. 6 asking how the agency intends to react to new state laws in Colorado and Washington that allow adults to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana for personal purposes. The states’ laws also allow adults to create licensing schemes for the cultivation and distribution of the drug. Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, with cultivation, possession and distribution punishable by prison time.

    Leahy pressed the drug control office, which is part of the White House, on how it intends “to prioritize federal resources” in light of the new state laws and whether the administration can guarantee that it will not prosecute state officials who are involved in the licensing process.

    “What assurance can and will the administration give to state officials involved in the licensing of marijuana retailers that they will not face federal criminal penalties for carrying out duties assigned to them under state law?” Leahy wrote.

    Leahy also said Thursday that he will call a Judiciary Committee hearing early next year on those questions and others involving marijuana policy.

    State-federal discrepancies over marijuana policy are nothing new. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group, 18 states and the District of Columbia now allow the use of medical marijuana, even though the federal government does not. For the most part, the Justice Department has not prosecuted violations of federal law in those states, but there have been notable exceptions in California and elsewhere.

    The new laws in Colorado and Washington go significantly further than the medical marijuana measures, however, and have raised concerns among state and federal lawmakers alike over how the legal differences will play out on the ground.

    State officials from Colorado and Washington have asked the administration for guidance, with the department so far saying only that its position “remains unchanged.”

    A bipartisan group of House members, meanwhile, is sponsoring legislation (HR 6606) that would prevent federal law from pre-empting state marijuana laws, an approach that sponsor Diana DeGette, D-Colo., has called a simple way to keep federal laws while respecting the state measures.

    In his letter Thursday, Leahy suggested that he could be open to supporting legislation like DeGette’s.

    “Legislative options exist to resolve the differences between federal and state law in this area and end the uncertainty that residents of Colorado and Washington now face,” he wrote. “One option would be to amend the Federal Controlled Substances Act to allow possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana, at least in jurisdictions where it is legal under state law.”

    CONTINUE READING; TO PAGE 2

    “You are being watched” H.R. 4310: National Defense Authorization Act

     

    The link hereto is a direct link to the PDF Document of the new “Patriot Act”, revised effective June 19, 2012 for the fiscal year of 2013.

    There is much discussion about what is happening with this legislation.

    H.R. 4310: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

    112th Congress, 2011–2012

    To authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2013 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction,

    and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, and for other purposes.

    Sponsor:
    Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon [R-CA25]
    Status:
    Passed House

     

    Here’s the added clause in question:

    “Nothing in the AUMF or the 2012 NDAA shall be construed to deny the availability of the writ of habeas corpus or to deny any Constitutional rights in a court ordained or established by or under Article III of the Constitution for any person who is lawfully in the United States when detained pursuant to the AUMF and who is otherwise entitled to the availability of such writ or such rights.”

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/ndaa-americans-indefinite-detention2012-11#ixzz2DfrztPqV

     

     

    Use the above link to Twitter your Congressman and tell them to end indefinite detention.  It could be you!

    In 1994, California voters passed the harshest three-strikes law in the country

    In 1994, California voters passed the harshest three-strikes law in the country. Soon after, stories began to emerge about people receiving life sentences for petty crimes such as stealing a pair of gloves or a slice of pizza. Such cases challenged the commonly held belief that the law applied only to violent criminals.

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    Our interest in this issue deepened when we read the results of a 2010 report, shared with us by the Three Strikes Project at Stanford Law School. The study showed that more than 4,000 inmates in California are serving life sentences for nonviolent offenses under the three-strikes law. While it is possible that some of the inmates may be eligible for parole after 25 years, a majority face the prospect of decades of prison time. Many of these stiff sentences struck us as egregious.

    Although judges have sentencing discretion in a very narrow band of three-strikes cases, the reality is that judges almost universally consider themselves bound under California law to impose a life sentence for a third felony offense, no matter how minor.

    When we began working on this Op-Doc, as well as other short-format videos profiling nonviolent “three strikers” and their families, a portrait quickly emerged of Californians struggling with extreme poverty whose lives — in the words of one woman we interviewed — “can just be thrown away.” We also learned that the law is disproportionately applied to minorities, the mentally ill and the poor.

    The case of Shane Taylor, the subject of this video, is common in many ways, but also unusual in that his judge and prosecutor have gone on record saying that his sentence is unfair and should be modified. Under current law, revising a sentence after it has been imposed is nearly impossible.

    On Nov. 6, voters in California will decide whether to adopt Proposition 36, a ballot initiative that would reform the most draconian aspects of the law — and, in our view, restore the original intent of voters, which was to lock away violent career criminals for life, without unjustly throwing away the lives of small-time, nonviolent offenders like Mr. Taylor. Like most Californians, we believe that the punishment should fit the crime. We’re encouraged that polls show broad public support for the measure.

    Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway received the best documentary screenplay award this year from the Writers Guild of America, West, and the Gotham Independent Film Award for best documentary last year, for their film “Better This World.” Funding for the production of this video was raised in part by David W. Mills, a Stanford law professor who supports Proposition 36 and has advocated reform of California’s three-strikes law.

    PLEASE CONTINUE THRU THIS LINK TO VIDEO….

    The 10 Best Politicians on Pot Reform

    From Barney Frank to Ron Paul, these elected leaders are challenging the government’s pointless war on marijuana

    Marijuana

    By Kristen Gwynne

    October 9, 2012 3:16 PM ET

    This month marks the 75th anniversary of marijuana prohibition in America – and the evidence suggests that the government ban may finally be on its way out. Last year, for the first time ever in this country, a Gallup poll found that a majority of Americans think marijuana should be legal, and several states have legalization bills on their ballots this fall.

    Nine Signs That Pot Legalization Is Coming Soon

    Despite this changing landscape, most national politicians have been slow to adapt their stances on weed. But there are a number of political power players fighting to reform the pot policies that lock up more than 800,000 Americans per year. This fall, two third-party presidential candidates – Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson – favor legalization. And while winning is a very long shot for either of them, there are a growing number of elected officials – both Republicans and Democrats – on the right side of this issue. Read on for 10 of the strongest reform advocates in office today:
    Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts)
    Frank, who plans to retire next year after three decades in Congress, has never been afraid to back marijuana reform. In response to the federal war on state medical marijuana programs, Frank recently introduced legislation to prohibit such interference. The States Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act would specify that no part of the Controlled Substances Act "shall prohibit or otherwise restrict" medical marijuana in states where it has been made legal or prescribed medically. It also calls for a review of marijuana’s Schedule I classification – which defines the plant as dangerous and not medically valuable – in favor of the less-restrictive Schedule III category. Unfortunately, since being referred to committee in May, the bill has seemingly stalled.

    In the meantime, Frank has continued to speak out for both medical and non-medical marijuana users. "If there’s an activity that I could engage in without hurting anyone else, as an adult, but other people if they engage in it may abuse it, please don’t prevent me from doing it," Frank said last month. "Whether you want to do these things or not ought to be your own choice."

    Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas)
    Paul, another retiring congressman, is one of the most prominent voices for drug law reform. A sharp critic of the War on Drugs and its violations of civil liberties, Paul sees ending pot prohibition as part of his libertarian philosophy. Campaigning in the Republican presidential primary, he vowed to pardon all non-violent drug offenders if elected – a stance that made him very popular with young voters. Along with Barney Frank, Paul co-sponsored the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011, which would have amended the Controlled Substances Act to remove marijuana from the Schedule I category, leaving legalization and regulation up to the states. The bill is viewed as unlikely to pass.

    Rep. Sam Farr (D-California)
    Farr has been a leading legislative voice for medical marijuana patients’ rights at trial. "The federal government has tilted the scales of justice towards conviction by denying medical marijuana defendants the right to present all of the evidence at trial," he recently said. In 2009 and again this summer, Farr introduced the Truth in Trials Act, which would grant medical marijuana patients the ability to present courtroom evidence on their prescription-authorized use of the drug. The bill was promptly referred to the Judiciary Committee, and will likely die before making it to a vote. Nevertheless, Farr has thrown his weight behind other medical marijuana legislation, including the Rohrabacher-Hinchey-Farr-McClintock Medical Marijuana Amendment to bar federal funding for federal raids and the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011.

    Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California)
    A staunch Republican, Rohrabacher has called out President Obama for escalating the war on pot and has criticized federal pot prohibition as a drain on resources and an infringement on states rights. "I don’t believe that you protect people by throwing them in cages," Rohrabacher said last fall. "For us to be taking people for smoking a weed and putting them in prison or jail for that is a travesty. It’s against everything our founding fathers believed in and somehow we got away from that."

    In May, Rohrabacher co-sponsored the bipartisan Rohrabacher-Hinchey-Farr-McClintock Medical Marijuana Amendment, which would have forbidden the Justice Department from using federal funding for raids on state-approved medical marijuana operations. (A week later, the House struck it down in a roll call vote.) Last year, he supported California’s unsuccessful legalization initiative, the Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act; he has also co-sponsored the recent Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, the States Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act and the Truth in Trials Act.

    Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California)
    This August, Lee introduced the Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act to defend medical marijuana operators from losing their property – a tactic the federal government has used in both threats and reality. "The people of California have made it legal for patients to have safe access to medicinal marijuana, and as a result thousands of small business owners have invested millions of dollars in building their companies, creating jobs and paying their taxes," Lee said. "We should be protecting and implementing the will of voters, not undermining our democracy by prosecuting small business owners who pay taxes and comply with the laws of their states in providing medicine to patients in need." The bill has struggled to move since being referred to committee on August 14. Lee also co-sponsored the States Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, the Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 and the Truth in Trials Act.
    Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado)
    In 2010, when the feds raided a number of medical marijuana operations in Colorado, Polis spoke up in defense of his constituents. In a letter to Eric Holder, Polis urged the attorney general to enforce the Justice Department’s written guidelines, which discourage federal interference with legal medical marijuana operations at the state level. Polis also co-sponsored the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act and the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act – but it was his showdown this June with Drug Enforcement Agency head Michele Leonhart that really earned him his stripes. When Leonhart testified before a House judiciary subcommittee, Polis pressed her on whether drugs like crack and heroin are more or less dangerous than marijuana. Leonhart contended that "all illegal drugs are bad," refusing to acknowledge any distinction between pot and harder substances. "If you don’t know, you can look this up," Polis retorted. "You should know this as the chief administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency." Video of the exchange went viral, providing a clear example of the irrational beliefs behind pot prohibition.
    Rep. Early Blumenauer (D-Oregon)
    As a speaker at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws conference in 2010, Blumenauer told attendees they had reached their "decade of decision." Despite his past statements in favor of marijuana legalization, he is one of the weaker advocates on this list after failing to back Oregon’s legalization initiative, Measure 80, which will be on the ballot in November. However, Blumenauer has continued to speak out for drug reform, and he has co-sponsored many of the recent pro-pot bills, including the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, the States Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act and the Truth in Trials Act.
    Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-Connecticut)
    Last year, Connecticut’s governor signed a marijuana decriminalization bill into law. Instead of facing a $1,000 fine and possible jail time, marijuana offenders now must pay $150 for their first offense and between $200 and $500 for subsequent violations. This spring, Malloy also signed a new law making Connecticut the country’s 17th state to legalize medical marijuana. (As his opponents often point out, Connecticut’s governor has a personal stake in marijuana policy reform: His son, now in his twenties, has had multiple legal run-ins allegedly involving marijuana.)
    Gov. Pete Shumlin (D-Vermont)
    When Vermont legalized medical marijuana in 2004, the legislation had one gaping loophole: It did not allow for dispensaries. To assist the patients who were now legally allowed to use medical marijuana but forced to grow their own or buy on the black market, Shumlin signed a bill last summer authorizing up to four medical marijuana dispensaries in Vermont. And late last year, Shumlin joined two other governors – Washington’s Christine Gregoire (a Democrat) and Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee (an Independent) – in petitioning the Drug Enforcement Agency to reclassify marijuana, moving it out of the highly restrictive, non-medical Schedule I category to at least Schedule II, which would recognize marijuana’s medical benefits. (Shumlin has been harder on so-called synthetic marijuana, recently signing a ban on chemicals commonly found in the substances. "We’re not talking about a plant that is grown, like marijuana," he said. "This junk will kill you.")

    Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan)
    In 2008, while serving as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Conyers slammed the Drug Enforcement Agency and its leader, Michele Leonhart, for executing pot raids on California’s regulated medical marijuana program. Pulling few punches, he made clear his opinion that dispensary-busting was an inappropriate response by the DEA and a waste of resources. "Please explain what role, if any, emerging scientific data plays in your decision-making process to conduct enforcement raids on individuals authorized to use or provide medical cannabis under state law," he wrote in a pointed letter to Leonhart. At a press conference last summer, Conyers went further, arguing for the decriminalization of marijuana for recreational use. He also co-sponsored Frank’s Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act.

    Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-10-best-politicians-on-pot-20121009#ixzz29Cuh4pRY

    Court To Review Marijuana’s Medical Benefits

    Lucia Graves

    lucia@huffingtonpost.com

     

     

    mmj3

    It started with a coalition of disgruntled Americans, then a handful of governors took up the cause last year, and now — for the first time in nearly 20 years — a federal court will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit challenging the classification of cannabis as a dangerous drug without medical benefits.

    In the case, Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration, the court will be presented with scientific evidence regarding the medicinal effects of marijuana, and is expected to rule on whether or not the Drug Enforcement Administration acted appropriately in denying a petition to reclassify cannabis, filed by a collection of public interest organizations back in 2002.

    "Medical marijuana patients are finally getting their day in court," Joe Elford, chief counsel with ASA, said in a recent statement. "This is a rare opportunity for patients to confront politically motivated decision-making with scientific evidence of marijuana’s medical efficacy."

    Under federal law, a schedule I prohibited substance is defined as having “a high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use in treatment.” Heroine and LSD are classified alongside marijuana as schedule I, while cocaine, opium and methamphetamine are classified as schedule II, meaning they have "some accepted medical use."

    Other groups, including the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians, support medical access to the drug or its reclassification, while the California Medical Association has called for full legalization.

    Donald Abrams, chief of hematology-oncology at San Francisco General Hospital, recently described the effectiveness of medical marijuana in the treatment regimens of cancer and HIV/AIDS patients. "I see patients who have loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting from their chemotherapy, pain on and off of opiates, anxiety, depression, and insomnia," he said in a press briefing last week, adding that these are just some of the conditions that can be alleviated by the use of medical marijuana.

    In its rejection of the ASA’s rescheduling petition in 2011, the DEA cited a 4-year-old Department of Health and Human Services paper that found no consensus on medical uses for marijuana, but it did not take into account studies showing the medical benefits of marijuana on the grounds the studies did not meet the standard of double-blind FDA approval trials.

    "[T]here are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving (marijuana’s) efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts…" wrote DEA administrator Michele Leonhart in a July 8, 2011 letter. "At this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy."

    A similar petition calling for marijuana to be reclassified as a schedule II drug was filed with the DEA in 1972, and in 1988, following a federal hearing, Administrative Law Judge Francis Young ruled that marijuana should indeed be reclassified. But that verdict was rejected by then-DEA administrator John Lawn and in 1994, his rejection was upheld by the D.C. Court of Appeals.

    The current case will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Oct. 16.

    CONTINUE READING…

    Eric Holder Urged To Oppose Marijuana Ballots By Ex-DEA Heads

    Eric Holder Marijuana

    By Alex Dobuzinskis

    LOS ANGELES, Sept 7 (Reuters) – Nine former heads of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration urged Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday to take a stand against possible legalization of recreational marijuana in three western states, saying silence would convey acceptance.

    The former officials said in a letter sent on Friday that legalization would pose a direct conflict with federal law, indicating there would be a clash between the states and the federal government on the issue.
    Voters in Colorado, Washington state and Oregon are due to decide in November whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use and to regulate and tax its sale.
    "To continue to remain silent conveys to the American public and the global community a tacit acceptance of these dangerous initiatives," they said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters. A spokeswoman for Holder declined to comment on the letter.

    The letter is similar to one they sent Holder in 2010 urging him to oppose a recreational pot legalization ballot measure in California. It was defeated with 53.5 percent of voters rejecting it.
    Holder opposed the California measure before the vote, warning that U.S. officials would enforce federal laws against marijuana in California despite any state legalization.
    Kevin Sabet, a former senior adviser on marijuana issues to President Barack Obama’s administration, said he would not be surprised if Holder took that same position again.
    "Essentially, a state vote in favor of legalization is a moot point since federal laws would be, in (Holder’s) own words (from 2010), ‘vigorously enforced,’" Sabet said. "I can’t imagine a scenario where the Feds would sit back and do nothing."

    Obama administration officials have until now said little about the upcoming ballot measures, although the federal government has cracked down on medical cannabis dispensaries in several states by raiding them and threatening legal action.

    PUBLIC SUPPORT
    In recent years polls have shown growing national support for decriminalizing marijuana. In May, an Angus Reid survey showed 52 percent of those polled expressed support for legalizing pot. The poll of 1,017 respondents had a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

    Gallup saw support hit 50 percent last year, the highest number the organization had ever measured on the question.
    In the swing state of Colorado, the marijuana measure with its potential to bring out young voters is seen as potentially influencing votes for president. Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling said earlier this year that marijuana "could be a difference maker" in the state.

    The nine signatories to Friday’s letter included John Bartels, who ran the DEA from 1973 to 1975, and Karen Tandy, who was in charge from 2003 to 2007.
    Tom Constantine, who was in charge of the DEA from 1994 to 1999 and also signed the letter, said the former administrators hoped it would send a message to voters and alter the public debate.
    He said the letter had been sent so "voters would know in all fairness that no matter what they vote on in Colorado or wherever it is, that federal law still prevails."
    In response to a 2011 petition to legalize and regulate marijuana, Obama administration drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said at that time that federal officials were concerned about the drug because it was "associated with addiction, respiratory disease and cognitive impairment."

    Legalization advocates say the decades-old drug war in the United States has failed, and they compare laws against marijuana to the prohibition of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933. They argue that society would be better served if marijuana could be taxed and regulated.

    While no U.S. state allows recreational use of marijuana, 17 states and the District of Columbia permit its use in medicine.

    "Anyone who is objective at all knows that current marijuana policy in this country is a complete disaster, with massive arrests, wasted resources, and violence in the U.S. and especially in Mexico," said Jill Harris, managing director of strategic initiatives for Drug Policy Action, which has poured money into legalization campaigns.

    (Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and David Brunnstrom)

    CONTINUE READING…

    Landmark Prescription Drug Bill Takes Effect; Gov. Beshear Praises Full Throttle Attack on Prescription Abuse

    Office of the Attorney General
    Landmark Prescription Drug Bill Takes Effect; Gov. Beshear Praises Full Throttle Attack on Prescription Abuse

    Press Release Date:
    Tuesday, July 24, 2012

    Contact Information:
    Kerri Richardson
    502.564.2611

    Just days after a landmark prescription drug abuse law took effect, Governor Steve Beshear joined lawmakers and medical providers to report the law has already effected changes in the medical field and positioned Kentucky as a national leader in battling prescription abuse.

    House Bill 1 (HB1), sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, passed in a special legislative session this spring. The bill included multiple elements to prevent the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs and to enhance law enforcement’s tools to investigate illegal prescribing practices.

    “The enforcement of this bill began just a couple of days ago, and yet we already know that four ‘pain management clinics’ in Kentucky have waved the white flag and notified us they will shut their doors,” said Gov. Beshear. “We know that more than 9,000 medical providers have signed up for electronic prescription monitoring just since this law passed in April – more than doubling the number registered. The word is out. Kentucky is deadly serious about stopping this scourge of prescription drug abuse, and now we have some of the strongest tools in the country to make that happen.”

    Gov. Beshear was joined by Attorney General Jack Conway as well as representatives from medical licensure boards, advocacy groups and law enforcement organizations, for today’s announcement.

    HB1 expands the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) system, the state’s prescription monitoring system, by requiring all prescription providers of controlled substances to register. It requires pain management clinics to be owned by a licensed medical practitioner, and requires professional licensure boards to investigate prescribing complaints immediately. The legislation allows for better coordination between health regulators and law enforcement to address problems of abuse. Finally, elements of HB1 will help prevent Kentucky from becoming a source state for prescription pills.

    According to Kentucky’s Drug Control Policy Office, nearly 1,000 Kentuckians die every year from drug overdoses – an annual fatality rate that exceeds deaths from car accidents. More than 5,000 overdose patients are admitted to hospitals annually.

    “Let’s be very clear – if you need a prescription for a controlled substance for a legitimate medical condition, you have nothing to fear. You’ll get your medicine. For doctors who worry their ability to prescribe will be compromised, you have nothing to fear. The law is built to protect valid prescribing,” said Gov. Beshear. “But if you’re doctor-shopping, buying extra pills for recreational use, or prescribing pills for cash, you’d better change your vocation or change your location, because we’re coming after you.”

    “Prescription drug abuse is killing Kentuckians. Three people will die today from prescription drug overdoses. I believe the provisions in House Bill 1 will save the lives of our friends, our neighbors and our family members,” said Attorney General Jack Conway. “The provisions in this law will help shut down rogue clinics and providers who are poisoning people. I appreciate those in the medical community who have joined with us as responsible providers to be a part of the solution instead of part of the problem.”

    “House Bill 1 and the emergency regulations will help stop tragic loss of life to drug abuse. We are working closely with medical professionals to ensure that legitimate pain management cases are not adversely affected,” said Speaker Stumbo. “The joint Implementation and Oversight Committee will be alert to any needed corrections, and we will make sure that all concerns are addressed.”

    Lawmakers praised the cooperation of the Cabinets, agencies, and boards who worked together to create new regulations, educate patients and medical providers, and build the necessary computer infrastructure to support the implementation of the law.

    HB1 Impact – KASPER enhancements

    Effective July 20, all medical practitioners who prescribe controlled substances must register to use KASPER and run a KASPER report before prescribing a patient a controlled substance such as Oxycontin or Xanax.

    When the law passed in April, KASPER had 7,911 registered accounts. Since then, another 9,137 providers have signed up for the program, a 115 percent increase.

    According to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), which oversees KASPER, 90 percent of all KASPER reports are completed within 15 to 30 seconds. The reports show medical providers what other controlled substances have been prescribed to a patient and in what amount.

    “Some providers worried that running a KASPER report would be cumbersome or time consuming, but 9 times out of 10, it will take as much time as measuring a patient’s blood pressure or recording their insurance information,” said Mary Begley, CHFS Inspector General. “It’s a very short investment of time that will become as routine as taking a patient’s temperature. A report can provide crucial information that not only may flag a problem user, but may also warn a provider of otherwise unforeseen complications from drug interactions.”

    KASPER’s cache of prescription information will grow more robust as more users add records. Supporters say patient care will become more precise as medical providers review patient prescription history and know more about existing prescriptions.

    A 2010 CHFS poll of KASPER users noted that 94 percent of medical providers said that the program is an effective tool in tracking an individual’s prescription history, and nearly 94 percent reported satisfaction with the tool. Nearly 9 in 10 KASPER users reported denying a prescription for a controlled substance to a patient based on information provided by a KASPER report.

    To accommodate the steep increase in KASPER use, CHFS has hired additional staff, implemented system upgrades and expanded capacity.

    Existing regulations provide that all dispensers (usually pharmacists) report to KASPER when any Schedule II through Schedule V controlled substances are dispensed. For the first time, new regulations provide that all prescribers must request a KASPER report before Schedule II, III and some IVs are prescribed. A list of certain Schedule IV controlled substances, which are known to be used or diverted, is attached.

    HB1 Impact: Shared Investigative Information

    HB1 requires that when a complaint about prescription abuse is lodged with any of several investigative agencies – the Attorney General, Kentucky State Police (KSP), CHFS, or any of the professional licensure boards – that complaint must be shared with the remaining agencies.

    Previously, if KSP was investigating a possible pill mill, the agencies that licensed that clinic were not required to be notified, nor would they be compelled to contribute information to the case.

    The Attorney General, KSP, CHFS and the six professional licensure boards have signed a memorandum of understanding to notify the other agencies of prescription complaints within three days of receipt. This will allow the investigators to share information quickly.

    The six professional boards – Medical Licensure, Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Podiatry and Optometry – are required to share reports with the Attorney General, KSP and CHFS but not required to share among each other. This alleviates concerns that the professional organizations would be forced to report information to other boards that have no jurisdiction over the complaint.

    HB1 Impact: Regulations Squeeze Offenders, Offer Grace Period for Providers

    Regulations for the implementation of HB1 were filed on July 20, the effective date of HB1. These regulations, which interpret how the law is carried out by each agency, board, or office, uphold the intent of HB1 – to reduce the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs.

    New regulations mandate that all pain management clinics must be owned by a licensed medical provider or employ a medical director in good standing with one of the professional licensure boards. Clinics will have some time to meet those requirements, but CHFS administrators say that already, four of the state’s pain clinics not owned by physicians have reported that they will close their doors. Another 9 have not yet contacted CHFS regarding licensing, and will be investigated to determine if they are operating illegally.

    “Not all pain management clinics are abusing their prescribing authority – many of them are meeting legitimate patient needs,” said CHFS Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes. “However, these regulations are designed to make it very, very difficult to stay in business if your clinic is a pill mill, prescribing high volumes of powerful drugs to people who are addicted.”

    Each of the professional license boards has also created an educational period for practitioners through October 1st. Much like other laws such as the seat belt law, providers will have a few months to get accustomed to the new practices before any disciplinary action will take place.

    “We don’t want the medical community to be afraid of immediate repercussions if they make an error this early in the process,” said Preston Nunnelley, chair of the Board of Medical Licensure. “We’ll have a few months to learn how the new policies will work, and we’ll be able to correct and guide providers along the way, instead of punishing people for unintentional errors.”

    Why Do Clinics Deny Painkillers To Medical Marijuana Patients?

    By Steve Elliott ~alapoet~

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    Should health care facilities have the power to make lifestyle decisions for you — and punish you when your choices don’t measure up to their ideals? More and more hospitals are making exactly those kinds of decisions when it comes to people who choose to use marijuana — even legal patients in medical marijuana states. Apparently, these places don’t mind looking exactly as if they have more loyalty to their Big Pharma benefactors than they do to their own patients.

    A new policy at one Alaska clinic — requiring patients taking painkilling medications to be marijuana free — serves to highlight the hypocrisy and cruelty of such rules, which are used at more and more health care facilities, particularly the big corporate chains (the clinic in question is a member of the Banner Health chain).

    Tanana Valley Clinic, in Fairbanks, started handing out prepared statements to all chronic pain patients on Monday, said Corinne Leistikow, assistant medical director for family practice at TVC, reports Dorothy Chomicz at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.


    “We will no longer prescribe controlled substances, such as opiates and benzodiazepines, to patients who are using marijuana (THC),” the statement reads in part. “These drugs are psychoactive substances and it is not safe for you to take them together.” (This statement is patently false; marijuana has no known dangerous reactions with any other drugs, and in fact, since marijuana relieves chronic pain, it often makes it possible for pain patients to take smaller, safer doses of opiates and other drugs.)

    LIAR, LIAR: Corinne Leistikow, M.D. says “patients who use opiates and marijuana together are at much higher risk of death.” We’d love to see the study you’re talking about, Corinne.

    “Your urine will be tested for marijuana,” patients are sternly warned. “If you test positive you will have two months to get it out of your system. You will be retested in two months. If you still have THC in your urine, we will no longer prescribe controlled substances for you.”

    TVC patient Scott Ide, who takes methadone to control chronic back pain, also uses medical marijuana to ease the nausea and vomiting caused by gastroparesis. He believes TVC decided to change its policy after an Anchorage-based medical marijuana authorization clinic spend three days in Fairbanks in June, helping patients get the necessary documentation to get a state medical marijuana card.

    “I’m a victim of circumstance because of what occurred,” Ide said. “I was already a patient with her — I was already on this regimen. We already knew what we were doing to get me better and work things out for me. I think it’s wrong.”

    Ide, a former Alaska State Trooper, said he was addicted to painkillers, but medical marijuana helped him wean himself off all medications except methadone.

    Leistikow admitted that the new policy may force some patients to drive all the way to Anchorage, because there are only a few chronic pain specialists in Fairbanks. Still, she claimed the strict new policy was “necessary.”

    The assistant medical director is so eager to defend the clinic’s new policy that she took a significant departure from the facts in so doing.

    “What we have decided as a clinic — we’re setting policy for which patients we can take care of and which ones we can’t — patients who use opiates and marijuana together are at much higher risk of death, abuse and misuse of medications, of having side effects from their medications, and recommendations are generally that patients on those should be followed by a pain specialist,” Leistikow lied.

    Patients who use opiates and marijuana together are NOT in fact at higher risk of death, abuse, misuse and side effects; I invite Ms. Leistikow to produce any studies which indicate they are. As mentioned earlier, pain patients who also use marijuana are usually able to use smaller, safer doses of painkillers than would be the case without cannabis supplementation.

    CONTINUE READING HERE…