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Marijuana Weekly Review: Sessions Continues To Stonewall Medical Marijuana Research

By Rick Schettino
Jul 12, 2018

According to some reports, Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to stonewall efforts to expand the availability of cannabis for medical research. In testimony to a Senate Appropriations subcommittee in April, Sessions argued that although medical marijuana reduces opioid overdose deaths, the evidence to support expanding access is still insufficient.

“This is simply untrue,” writes Jeffrey Miron of the CATO Institute. “While DOJ and DEA policy have limited the ability of U.S. researchers to access and experiment with medical grade marijuana, substantial peer-reviewed scientific research supports the benefits of medical marijuana.”

Sessions also complained that the language in the policy violated the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs which contains broad exemptions regarding medical research and use, according to Miron.

“Even as the DEA refuses to take action, other federal agencies are quietly accepting medical marijuana,” Miron says. For example, the FDA recently approved Epidiolex, a drug containing CBD (cannabidiol) derived from marijuana.

In a statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said, “We’ll continue to support rigorous scientific research on the potential medical uses of marijuana-derived products and work with product developers who are interested in bringing patients safe and effective, high quality products.”

Another Study Confirms Medical Marijuana Reduces Opioid Deaths

A new study out of the University of California San Diego and Weill Cornell Medical College confirmed that medical marijuana reduces opioid deaths. The study, published in the journal Addiction found that statewide medical cannabis legalization implemented from 1993 - 2014 in the U.S. showed a 30 percent reduction in Schedule III opioids received by Medicaid enrollees.

The study estimated that medical cannabis saves the federal government $7.46 million in annual Medicaid spending, and saves states another $6.54 million.

Authors of the study point out that if all states legalized medical cannabis by 2014, “Medicaid annual spending on opioid prescriptions would be reduced by 17.8 million dollars." They also claim that the evidence suggests that cannabis provides mild to moderate relief from pain, on par with Codeine.

"Although there is emerging evidence suggesting that cannabis is effective in treating severe pain, no studies compared the analgesic efficacy of the cannabinoids with Schedule II opioids,” the report says. “Due to the concern of cannabis’ lack of efficacy on severe pain symptoms, patients prescribed Schedule II opioids might be less likely to switch to medical cannabis and physicians might be less likely to recommend medical cannabis to these patients."

Marijuana In The Legislature

Assuming Republican leaders don’t block the process, The U.S. House of Representatives could vote next week on amendments allowing marijuana businesses access to banks. The House Rules Committee already killed nearly three dozen cannabis amendments from advancing. “Exactly zero marijuana-related measures have been cleared by GOP leaders for floor votes since the summer of 2016,” writes Marijuana Majority founder Tom Angell.

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Following a vote of 119-23 in the House and 25-8 in the Senate, Maine legislators successfully overrode Republican Governor Paul LePage’s veto of a bill containing sweeping changes to the state’s medical marijuana programs. The new legislation allows patients to use marijuana as long as a doctor deems it medically beneficial, regardless of the condition for which it is being used. It also allows residents to have up to six new medical dispensary licenses.

Caregivers can now expand their business operations and open storefronts. And it gives municipalities more regulatory power. LePage also vetoed another bill that establishes a new kind of license for extraction of cannabis oils used in preparations such as tinctures and edibles for patients who would rather not smoke the medicinal herb. State legislators voted to overturn that veto as well.

The Cannabis Markets

According to Viridian Capital Advisors, a New York firm that tracks investment activity across the cannabis sector, merger and acquisition activity is accelerating across the cannabis industry. Since the beginning of 2018, more than 145 mergers and acquisitions have been announced, nearly double the activity during the same period last year.

“The momentum is giving more company founders an opportunity to cash out at an attractive price – or leverage the deals to launch their next venture. The flurry of activity is a strong signal that the legal marijuana market is maturing as the industry’s early pioneers begin to exit,” writes Marijuana Business Daily contributor Lisa Bernard-Kuhn.

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Canopy Growth founder, Chairman and CEO Bruce Linton told CNBC on Wednesday that the Canadian cannabis producer is working with Constellation Brands, the alcohol giant behind Corona and Modelo, to start working on marijuana-infused beverages — “the next trend in weed,” according to CNBC.

The beverages, which would serve to boost Constellation Brands' exposure to the Canadian market, would also be targeted to two different audiences: those who want to relax after a busy day and those who want some energy before a night out, the CEO said.

"We expect we’ll be able to make beverages and those beverages will be no calorie, they will cause you to feel upbeat… We’re talking about going into a bar and having a tweed and tonic."

Puff, Puff, Pass

In a case involving a church seeking to offer its members marijuana as a holy sacrament, a judge ruled against the First Church of Cannabis in Indianapolis. The judge claimed that allowing religious exemptions for marijuana use would have a negative impact on society and argued that an exemption would put Indiana’s police officers in the difficult position of having to evaluate the sincerity of a marijuana user’s religious faith… Allegations that a politically connected medical marijuana grower in Maryland is using illegal pesticides were made in a sworn statement by three former employees at an Anne Arundel County growing center run by ForwardGro… Four medical marijuana businesses were awarded the first operating licenses on Thursday in Michigan… The federal Drug Enforcement Administration released a list of slang terms commonly used to refer to reefer, and it’s breaking the internet.

A Broken Clock…

Television star and sometimes medical professional Dr. Oz went on Fox News recently to champion the use of medical marijuana, proving that, just maybe, two wrongs do make a right. Check out the clip below:

 

*Photo Credit: By DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro/Released - https://www.dvidshub.net/image/3114225/58th-presidential-inauguration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55221795

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