By David Downs
A seemingly historic medical marijuana summit by several US government health agencies will largely exclude evidence coming from the states that have legalized medical cannabis — another example of entrenched Washington, DC bureaucrats placing politics over science in the marijuana debate.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and four other NIH institutes and centers is holding the “Marijuana and Cannabinoids: A Neuroscience Research Summit” today and tomorrow in Bethesda, Maryland.
“The overarching goal is to present current basic research and evidence-based information to identify research gaps to ultimately inform science, practice, and policy,” an NCCIH release states.
But the presence of at least one co-sponsor, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, ensures that the summit will be less about healing and more about Reefer Madness. NIDA’s official mission is to fund studies to find harms in cannabis — not any benefit. The summit will not include leading doctors who treat patients with medical marijuana, or patients themselves.
Instead, NIDA’s director, Dr. Nora Volkow is opening and closing the summit, which will showcase NIDA’s most recent research efforts to show marijuana harms the brain, brain development, and function. The White House Drug Czar will weigh in after lunch, followed by talks on pot and psychosis, pot addiction, and combining pot with alcohol.
[You can watch the NIH Marijuana Summit online here.]
Only at the end of the day will speakers address the ability of cannabis to treat epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. A marijuana-derived drug reduced seizures by 40 percent in kids with untreatable epilepsy, clinical trials revealed last week.
Tomorrow, NIDA will relay its latest on pot and driving in the morning. Talks on cannabis’ potential for use on pain and anxiety precede discussions about potential negative health effects of legalization.
States with medical marijuana laws have 25 percent less opioid overdoses than states without cannabis access, a study published in JAMA showed.
In February, US Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachussetts, asked the CDC to consider legalizing pot to stem the opioid overdose epidemic.
The summit is a missed opportunity, said Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, affiliated faculty of the MultiCare Institute of Research and Innovation. Aggarwal just spent a year as a clinical fellow at the NIH intramural campus, and wrote us that “there is a strong bureaucratic taboo in discussing any of the reemerging science or art of cannabis medicine.”
“This conference does break down some of that taboo, but performs a great disservice to the American people by excluding in the core agenda medical and scientific speakers who can describe health lessons learned from the two dozen medical cannabis state level programs in the United States,” he wrote.
Millions of patients have been treated by botanical cannabis, Aggarwal notes. One in twenty California adults have reported using medical cannabis for a serious condition and 92 percent of them believe pot worked, researchers report.
“This belies the strong phamaceuticalized cannabis slant of this conference, despite its co-sponsorship by the National Center on Complementary and Integrative Health, which ought to be studying cannabis and cannabinoid integrative health and medicine, not ignoring it,” Aggarwal wrote.
The doctor who wrote the textbook on cannabis in Integrative Oncology, Donald Abrams of San Francisco, is also not part of the summit. Neither is leading researcher on using marijuana to treat PTSD — Dr. Sue Sisley.
According to the National Cancer Institute, cannabis users have a 45 percent decrease in the likelihood of bladder cancer compared to non-users.
The journal Epidemiology reported cannabis users had 30 percent less likelihood of diabetes compared to non-users in studies.
The American Epilepsy Society reported a 47 percent drop in pediatric epileptic seizures during clinical trials of cannabis extract Epidiolex, and 9 percent of kids in the study became seizure-free.
Cannabis is ranked number one on the US government list of the most dangerous drugs. Researchers report facing more hurdles to studying botanical cannabis than any other drug.
Prescription opioids are far less controlled. The number of overdose deaths from cannabis in recorded history is zero, while the number of overdose deaths from opioids in 2014 in the United States totaled 28,647. Doctors wrote 259 million opioid pain medication prescriptions in 2012. About 100 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses.
- December 30 2014
In a few short paragraphs within the 1,603-page congressional spending bill signed into law on December 16, 2014, Congress prohibited the U.S. Department of Justice from using federal funds to prosecute users, growers and distributors of medical marijuana in states that have enacted medical marijuana statutes. The full text of the de-funding rider barring the DOJ from the use of funds to “prevent. . . implementation” of state and local laws legalizing medical marijuana states:
Sec. 538. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.
Sec. 539. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used in contravention of section 7606 (“Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research”) of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-79) by the Department of Justice or the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Several U.S. Supreme Court decisions have upheld prosecution of medical marijuana growers and users under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Nevertheless, the Obama Administration, as a matter of policy, has directed the DOJ to take a relaxed approach to prosecution and the DOJ has done so, except for use that impacts the DOJ’s “enforcement priorities” (e.g., preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors, preventing the revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels). This new de-funding measure now codifies that policy approach as law. (Notably, the rider does not affect IRS or Treasury Department actions relating to payment of taxes by marijuana suppliers and online banking).
The legislation, however, does not legalize medical marijuana. Rather, the federal ban on marijuana continues – i.e., both medical and recreational marijuana continue to be illegal under CSA Schedule I. And, though de-funding may affect enforcement of criminal laws in states with medical marijuana statutes, it has no effect in states that have not legalized marijuana, nor does it express any limitations on employer action on the basis of a positive marijuana test result administered under a workplace drug testing policy. Finally, the rider expires on September 30, 2015, and may or may not be renewed heading into the heart of the presidential election campaign in the fall of 2015. For all of these reasons, though significant in reflecting current legislators’ thinking at the national level regarding CSA enforcement, the mere enactment of the spending bill with this provision does not warrant adjustment to drug testing policies of employers choosing to continue to treat confirmed positive marijuana test results as positive even when the result was caused by medicinal use that is lawful under state or local law.
The proposed congressional budget released Tuesday night prevents the Department of Justice from using funds to undermine state laws regarding medical marijuana.
posted on Dec. 9, 2014, at 9:20 p.m.
Michelle Broder Van Dyke BuzzFeed News Reporter
The House budget passed Tuesday night prevents the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration from using funds to interfere with state laws that legalize medical marijuana.
The amendment was introduced by California Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican, and Sam Farr, a Democrat, and was approved by the House of Representatives in May. It implies that DEA raids on medical marijuana patients in states where it is legal will stop.
The budget Senate proposal — which must still go back to the House for a full vote before it lands on President Obama’s desk — would keep all but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) operating normally through the end of the fiscal year in 2015.
The compromise bill was approved with Republicans agreeing to put off a fight with Obama over his immigration policies until February, when funding for the DHS is slated to run out, the Associated Press reported.
The bill’s Section 538, which addresses medical marijuana, reads:
None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.
The bill also includes a section that protects industrial hemp cultivation.
None of the funds made available by this Act may be used in contravention of section 7606 (”Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research”) of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law 113–79) by the Department of Justice or the Drug Enforcement Administration.
AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty
Marijuana advocates were pleased with the bill.
Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, said in statement to BuzzFeed News: “Congressional leaders seem to have finally gotten the message that a supermajority of Americans wants states to be able to implement sensible marijuana reforms without federal interference.”
Angell also urged the Obama administration to use this opportunity to “reschedule marijuana immediately.” Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning it’s a dangerous narcotic with no accepted medical use. Heroin and LSD are also classified Schedule I, while cocaine and methamphetamine are Schedule II, a lower ranking.
Advocates say reclassifying the drug would allow for state and federal laws to be in sync, and conserve law enforcement resources. It would also ease access to research of the drug and tension between banks and marijuana retailers.
Erik Altieri, communication director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, also released a statement that said: “By restricting these agencies in this manner, the nearly two dozen states that implemented medical marijuana programs can hopefully breathe easier knowing federal money won’t be spent to interfere with their progress. We hope this leads to further reforms at the federal level further enshrining this sentiment into law.”
The bill also effectively blocks the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Washington, D.C., but preserves its decriminalization law.
Voters in Washington, D.C., overwhelmingly passed a recreational marijuana referendum on the November ballot, which is now effectively blocked. The District passed a decriminalization bill in April that will remain intact.
The proposed bill’s appropriations section, which allocates millions in funds to the district, states:
“None of the Federal funds contained in this Act may be used to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative.”
Unlike most states, Washington, D.C., doesn’t take in any local revenue that it can spend and receives all of its funding from the federal government, so the ban on using funds for legalization effectively blocks the referendum voters recently passed.
Earlier on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said of the rider: “I’m opposed to what the House is trying to do.”
“If they put it in there, it’s going to be hard to take it out over here,” he added.
Marijuana advocates in Washington D.C. and those who advocate for the district’s autonomy were not pleased. D.C. Cannabis Campaign, which sponsored the ballot measure to legalize weed, tweeted the following:
The case to ban fracking grows stronger every day. Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing. It’s a water-intensive process where millions of gallons of fluid — a mix of water, sand, and chemicals, including ones known to cause cancer — are injected underground at high pressure to fracture the rock surrounding an oil or gas well. This releases extra oil and gas from the rock, so it can flow into the well.
But the process of fracking introduces additional industrial activity into communities beyond the well. Clearing land to build new access roads and new well sites, drilling and encasing the well, fracking the well and generating the waste, trucking in heavy equipment and materials and trucking out the vast amounts of toxic waste — all of these steps contribute to air and water pollution risks and devaluation of land that are turning our communities into sacrifice zones. Fracking threatens the air we breathe, the water we drink, the communities we love and the climate on which we all depend. That’s why over 250 communities in the U.S. have passed resolutions to stop fracking, and why Vermont, France and Bulgaria have stopped it.
Why a Ban? Can Regulations Make Fracking Safe?
Ban Fracking in Your Area
No. Fracking is inherently unsafe and we cannot rely on regulation to protect communities’ water, air and public health. The industry enjoys exemptions from key federal legislation protecting our air and water, thanks to aggressive lobbying and cozy relationships with our federal decision makers (the exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act is often referred to as the Cheney or Halliburton Loophole, because it was negotiated by then-Vice President Dick Cheney with Congress in 2005). Plus, the industry is aggressively clamping down on local and state efforts to regulate fracking by buying influence and even bringing lawsuits to stop them from being implemented. That’s why fracking can’t be made safe through government oversight or regulations. An all out ban on fracking is the only way to protect our communities.
- How much do you know about fracking? Take our quiz!
- Get the facts about fracking and why we need a ban in our Ban Fracking Now fact sheet.
- Learn how free trade agreements could fast track fracking.
- Read the Issue Brief: Fracking Colorado: Illusory Benefits, Hidden Costs
- Read the Report: U.S. Energy Insecurity: Why Fracking for Oil and Natural Gas Is a False Solution
- Read the Report: Exposing the Oil and Gas Industry’s False Jobs Promise for Shale Gas Development
- How do climate change, fracking and a global water crisis go hand-in-hand?
- Watch our video
- Learn how fracking affects our nation’s food system
- Why is fracking contributing to the global water crisis?
- How is the industry lying about the economic benefits of fracking?
- Undermining Local Democracy: Fast Track, the TPP and Your Community December 2, 2013
- Ban Fracking Now! October 17, 2013
- Frackademia May 28, 2013
- Fracking: The New Global Water Crisis May 7, 2013
- Natural Gas Pipelines: Problems From Beginning to End January 23, 2013