Philadelphia Hospital To Study Medical Marijuana Patients with MS


Philadelphia is quickly becoming a focal point in the nation’s fight for marijuana reform, with most of the attention on the city directed at Philadelphia’s new district attorney, Larry Krasner, who is championing a radical reform agenda aimed at transforming criminal justice. But Philly is also home to the Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp, one of the country’s leading medical cannabis research centers.

Last week, the Lambert Center made major medical cannabis news when it announced a new initiative for patients suffering from chronic diseases — and, if the initiative succeeds, it will produce the largest database of medical marijuana health outcomes to date.

Pioneering Medical Cannabis Research Center Launches Trailblazing Patient Initiative

On Thursday, Thomas Jefferson University issued a press release announcing that the university’s Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp had partnered with ioVita, a digital health startup, to launch a new initiative called

The initiative is the first of its kind: its goals are to further the scientific understanding of medical cannabis by collecting information directly from patients and caregivers. To do so, it’s establishing a voluntary medical cannabis patient registry; once enrolled, patients who use medical cannabis can self-report on their health outcomes.


The Lambert center hopes to enroll at least 100,000 patients in the registry. That would make it the largest single database of patient health outcomes in the United States.

The registry will be an indispensable resource not just for patients and caregivers, but also for researchers, since longitudinal studies gather data about individuals or groups over a long period of time — and in the field of medical cannabis research, they are scarce.

“We are launching the patient registry to fill significant gaps in the science,” Steven K. Klasko, TJU president and CEO, said in a press release. “The Lambert Center’s leadership in this emerging area of medicine exemplifies Jefferson’s commitment to advance the leading edge of medicine and transform the status quo in US healthcare.”

The Lambert Center, Medical Marijuana, and MS

The Lambert Center’s registry will collect health outcome data from anyone who uses cannabis for medical reasons. Most of the data will likely come from patients who use cannabis for pain relief, which, according to Harvard University, is the most common use of medical marijuana in the U.S.


But other patient groups will also provide crucial data for researchers: those who use cannabis to treat neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis (MS). For these patient communities, medical cannabis represents an area of emerging interest. Studies show 95 percent of patients with MS believe medical marijuana could be a viable course of treatment. Furthermore, a 2017 survey found that roughly 52 percent of MS patients who used medical cannabis found the drug beneficial.

Currently, however, patients suffering from chronic diseases and their caregivers have little knowledge about which forms of cannabis are the most effective for treating a particular disease or symptom. The registry would allow patients to share their experiences and spread knowledge about the best treatment options.

“Millions of patients with chronic diseases are seeking health benefits from marijuana and various cannabinoids, and many are left to experiment with cannabis products on their own,” Charles Pollack Jr., MD and director of the Lambert Center, said in the release. “These patients and their caregivers not only deserve our support, but they can help advance scientific understanding by sharing their experiences in a research registry designed with rigor and scale.”

When Patients Share Their Experiences with Medical Cannabis, Everyone Wins

By aiming to enroll 100,000 patients, the Lambert Center is setting a high bar for itself, but if it hits that mark, it will have established the largest and most comprehensive clinical database in the growing field of medical cannabis studies.

Once is live this summer, medical cannabis patients will be able to enroll and share health outcomes through the website’s online portal, and The Lambert Center is also establishing partnerships with patient and healthcare organizations nationwide, including medical cannabis dispensaries. The idea is to cast a wide net to collect as much data as possible.


“Current evidence indicates that cannabinoids can be useful in the management of certain types of chronic pain, side effects of chemotherapy, and some symptoms of MS,” Pollack added. “But there is much we still need to learn.”

Georgia Adds Pain and PTSD as Conditions for Medical Marijuana


After months of working its way to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk, a new bill hoped to add intractable pain and PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in Georgia. And yesterday, Governor Deal signed the bill into law.

A Look at Marijuana in Georgia

Georgia has been easing up on weed penalties for a while. Last fall, Atlanta, the largest city and capital, passed a referendum that decriminalized marijuana. Now, Atlantans cannot be jailed for possession, and the maximum fine is a low $75.



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Since then, lawmakers have introduced new legislation that would extend decriminalization to the whole state. The first bill, House Bill 865, would reclassify possession of 2 ounces as a misdemeanor. Additionally, Senate Bill 105 would decriminalize up to half an ounce, and lower the fine.

Of course, selling, transporting, and growing marijuana would still be illegal. Though this legislation is by no means lenient, it is a movement towards tolerance.

The State’s Medical Marijuana Laws Are Evolving

Georgia legalized medical marijuana in 2015 but continues to expand its list of qualifying conditions. In 2017, Republican State Representative Allen Peake introduced a bill to the House that doubled the list of ailments treatable with medical pot.

The list included HIV/AIDS, Tourette’s Syndrome, autism, autoimmune disease, epidermolysis bullosa, Alzheimer’s disease, and peripheral neuropathy. Today, increasing scientific and anecdotal evidence shows that marijuana can treat these illnesses.


To date, approximately 4,000 Georgians have medical marijuana cards.

This Week, Lawmakers Added More Conditions

On Monday, House Bill 65 reached the final step in the legislative process. Thanks to Governor Nathan Deal’s signature, patients with intractable pain and PTSD can now access medical marijuana.

Getting this bill through was not easy due to intense opposition. A supporter of the legislation, House Rep. David Clark, had some harsh words for the President of the Senate, Casey Cagle. “There are lives at stake. This isn’t a game. … People are dying,” he said to Cagle.

This bill’s passage does not mean that you can get marijuana in any form. Even with a doctor’s approval, you can’t legally smoke marijuana. This legislation only permits is low-THC cannabis oil.

Unfortunately, you may not even be able to get weed oil due to a huge caveat in the new law. Cardholders still have no legal way to get their medicine because you cannot grow marijuana or bring it from one place to another. You cannot legally import it from another state, either.


Georgia’s Medical Marijuana Program Is Far From Complete

Since there isn’t a legal way for patients to obtain medical marijuana, the state is still essentially forcing people to break the law to access medicine they’re legally allowed to have. In early 2018, lawmakers attempted to pass a bill that would have allowed cannabis cultivation. As is the case in Washington D.C.with recreational weed, lawmakers need to find a way to get people access to a substance they’ve legalized.

Despite Georgia’s conservatism when it comes to medical marijuana, some are optimistic that recreational marijuana is coming. This southern state needs to up its tax revenue, and last year, they failed to legalize casinos. As seen in Colorado, marijuana is an untapped source of state income.

Whether discussing medical or recreational marijuana, Georgia’s biggest obstacle is its unique legislative process. A vote cannot legalize weed, so it would need to go through lawmakers… which seems less than likely with a Republican majority in the Georgian Senate and House.

Utah’s ‘Right to Try’ Medical Marijuana Bill is Officially in Effect


Utah’s ‘Right to Try’ medical marijuana bill officially went into effect yesterday. But under the new law, only terminally ill patients will have access to medicinal cannabis.

House Bill 195 (HB195) allows terminally ill patients to possess and use marijuana for medical use. The measure adds medicinal cannabis to the auspices of 2015’s Right to Try Act. That law allows patients with a terminal illness to use medical treatments not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). HB195 officially adds medical marijuana as one of the experimental treatments allowed under the Right to Try Act.



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The Utah Senate easily passed HB 195 on March 7 by a vote of 19-3. The House of Representatives then approved the measure 40-26 on March 20 and sent it to Governor Gary Herbert, who signed the bill into law.

Companion Bill Also Becomes Law

Another new measure, House Bill 197 (HB197), also went into effect yesterday. A companion to HB195, this law authorizes the establishment of a medicinal cannabis cultivation program in the state.

However, HB197 had a more difficult road to approval by the state legislature. Like HB195, it also cleared the Senate without difficulty, by a margin of 20-5.


In the House, bills must receive at least 38 votes (a majority of the body’s 75 members) to pass. HB197 failed to receive approval on an initial vote, with a tally in favor by 36-34 votes.

But a motion to reconsider was approved, resuscitating the measure. Before a second vote, Rep. Brad Daw, the sponsor of both HB195 and HB197, told his fellow lawmakers that patients need both bills.

“This bill becomes the way to supply a genuine cannabis medicine for both those programs. We need to pass this bill if we want to have patients the ability to try both under Right to Try and under research,” Daw said.

New Law May Be Irrelevant Soon

But the two laws that went into effect yesterday may soon be a moot point. A much broader initiative legalizing medical marijuana appears to be heading for November’s ballot.

Organizers of the campaign for the Utah Medical Cannabis Act have already turned in enough signatures to qualify for the election. The Utah Patients Coalition gathered more than 40,000 signatures in excess of the 113,143 necessary.


The Utah Medical Cannabis Act, if successful, would allow patients with a list of specific serious medical conditions to use medical marijuana. The bill also allows for the creation of a legalized cultivation and distribution infrastructure and regulatory framework to manage it. The bill limits patients to two ounces of marijuana or 10 grams of THC or CBD per 14 day period. Smoking marijuana and driving under the influence would still be prohibited. Far more patients would qualify for medical marijuana under the initiative.

However, the measure has not officially qualified for the ballot just yet. And an anti-pot group is hoping to keep it that way. Drug Safe Utah has begun a drive to convince people who have signed petitions to now remove their names from petitions. If enough signers change their minds, the initiative could fail to qualify for the ballot after all.

Marijuana News: A Senate Bill To Decriminalize Marijuana At The Federal Level Is On Its Way


ut plainly, the cannabis industry is budding worldwide. Cannabis research firm ArcView Group has estimated that North American legal marijuana sales could explode from $9.7 billion in 2017 (which represented 33% sales growth from 2016) to more than $47 billion by 2027. Meanwhile, Cowen Group recently raised its global legal cannabis sales forecast from $50 billion by 2026 to $75 billion by 2030.

This article originally appeared in the Motley Fool. 

At the heart of these lofty sales estimates is a major shift in consumer opinion toward pot. What had once been considered a taboo topic is no more. Five national polls over the trailing one-year period -- CBS News, Gallup, Fox News, Pew Research Center, and the independent Quinnipiac University -- found support ranging from 59% to 64% for nationwide legalization. Furthermore, support for medical marijuana in the aforementioned Quinnipiac University poll from August hit an overwhelming 94%. 

Despite Changing Opinions On Cannabis, The U.S. Is Stuck In The Mud

Yet in the United States, the cannabis industry remains stuck in neutral. Despite the fact that 29 states have broad medical marijuana laws and nine states have OK'd the use of recreational weed, the federal government has entrenched its stance on cannabis being a Schedule I drug. This places weed on par with drugs like LSD and heroin, suggests it's highly prone to abuse, and means it has no recognized medical benefits.

In addition to being wholly illegal at the federal level, marijuana's Schedule I status can wreak havoc on businesses operating in the pot industry, as well as patients hoping to receive medical cannabis or cannabis-derived medicines.

For instance, marijuana companies often have little to no access to basic banking services, which constrains their ability to expand and hire. Also, the three-decade-old tax rule known as 280E disallows businesses that sell a federally illegal substance from taking normal corporate income-tax deductions. This means that profitable pot companies could pay an effective tax rate of as high as 90%! And, as noted, patients can suffer given the lengthy amount of red tape surrounding medical cannabis trials and research.

The industry is also challenged by Attorney General Jeff Sessions leading the Justice Department. Sessions is perhaps the most ardent opponent of cannabis in Washington, and he's tried on more than one occasion to upend state-level expansion. In May 2017, Sessions (unsuccessfully) requested that a few of his congressional colleagues repeal the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which is responsible for protecting medical marijuana businesses from federal prosecution.

However, Sessions was successful in rescinding the Cole memo in January. The Cole memo provided a loose set of guidelines that states would follow in order to keep the federal government at bay. These guidelines included keeping grown cannabis within legal states and ensuring that adolescents didn't have access to marijuana. Its rescinding opened the door for state-level prosecutors to use their discretion in bringing charges against individuals or businesses that violate the Controlled Substances Act.

This Influential Congressional Leader Is Set To Introduce A Decriminalization Bill

But big changes could be on the way. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced a little over a week ago his intention to introduce a bill to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level -- i.e., remove it from the controlled substances list.

In an interview with Vice News Tonight, Schumer had this to say:

The time has come to decriminalize marijuana. My thinking -- as well as the general population's views -- on the issue has evolved, and so I believe there's no better time than the present to get this done. It's simply the right thing to do. 

If this sounds somewhat familiar, it's because former House Speaker John Boehner, who once described himself as "unalterably opposed" to the idea of decriminalizing marijuana, announced his change of heart just days before Schumer made his own announcement about proposing a decriminalization bill. Said Boehner in a statement to CNBC on why he was joining a cannabis company's board of advisors:

Like that of millions of other Americans, [my thinking on cannabis] has evolved as I've learned more about the issue. I decided to get involved because of the struggles of our country's veterans and the opioid epidemic, after learning how descheduling the drug can potentially help with both crises. Descheduling will reduce the conflict between federal policy and state programs. 

However, Schumer's proposal wouldn't completely wipe out the ability of the federal government to enforce certain controls. Federal regulators would still be able to penalize instances of drug trafficking between legalized states and states that have not chosen to OK the use of legal weed. In addition, the federal government would retain authority over marijuana advertising so as to ensure that children aren't targeted. Ultimately, though, states would have the final say on whether or not cannabis is legal and how it's regulated.

Is Decriminalization A Real Possibility?

Of course, the $64,000 question is this: Does Schumer's decriminalization bill have a chance of passage in the Senate and/or House?

Based on the current make-up of Congress, I'd suggest it wouldn't pass. In Gallup's October 2017 survey, 51% of respondents who identified as Republican favored legalization, albeit this "majority" was still within the margin of error for the poll. Though this represented the first time in history a majority of the GOP was in support of legalization, Republicans still have a decidedly more negative view of weed relative to Democrats and Independents. With numerous big-ticket issues expected to be on the table in Congress this year, including healthcare reform and an infrastructure bill, the chance of a decriminalization bill gaining majority support seems unlikely. 

But things could change after the midterm elections in November. If Republicans lose their majority in the House and/or Senate, it may be possible to garner enough support to reschedule or decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.

Should the U.S. alter its stance on cannabis through decriminalization, it's probable that Canadian growers would rush in to stake their claims. For example,  Aphria (NASDAQOTH:APHQF) , which is expected to be a top-three grower by annual production in Canada (approximately 230,000 kilograms a year), announced its intention to sell off its passive U.S. assets in the wake of Sessions' repeal of the Cole memo. Aphria made good on this promise in February when it announced a divestiture of more than 26.7 million shares of medical cannabis company Liberty Health Sciences. If the U.S. reverses its anti-cannabis stance, Aphria would likely reenter the U.S. market, along with most of its peers. 

More importantly, decriminalizing marijuana in what could arguably be described as the most lucrative weed market in the world would likely remove any concerns about a marijuana glut in Canada. With some estimates suggesting that supply in Canada could outweigh domestic demand by over 1 million kilograms of dried cannabis, the ability to export to legalized countries will be paramount to supporting the margins of Canadian growers.

Personally, I don't believe this is an issue that'll be resolved anytime soon. Chances are that we're going to need to wait until a few months after the midterm elections before we get any clarity on whether a decriminalization bill has any chance of passage in the U.S.

Sean Williams has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Police Officer Caught Selling Drugs To Undercover Federal Informant


It wasn’t a happy 420 for a police officer caught selling drugs to an undercover federal informant in New Jersey last week. FBI agents arrested Ruben McAusland, 26, on Friday, April 20 for selling drugs including cannabis, crack, heroin, and powder cocaine. McAusland is a patrol officer with the Paterson Police Department.

US Attorney Craig Carpenito announced that agents had taken McAusland into custody in a press release last week. Carpenito’s spokesperson Will Skaggs told the New York Post that the arrest is unusual.

“It’s a surprising case — that an officer, who is supposed to be preventing the sale of drugs, did just the opposite,” he said.

Officer Faces Multiple Allegations

According to a complaint filed by federal prosecutors, McAusland sold drugs to the informant several times beginning in October 2017. At that time he sold the individual approximately 35 grams of marijuana, 48 grams of heroin, 31 grams of cocaine, and 31 grams of crack cocaine for only $50.

McAusland then allegedly sold the informant a pound of weed on two different occasions. The first time he charged $2,500, the second pound cost $2,400.

In February of this year, McAusland offered to sell a kilo of cocaine to the Feds’ snitch. The same month and on several subsequent occasions, the police officer sold counterfeit Percocet pills. McAusland charged $7 each for the tablets, which actually contained heroin.

Also in February, while in his patrol car, he met the buyer in a supermarket parking lot near Paterson PD headquarters. McAusland delivered sample heroin pills to the informant at that time. He then sold heroin pills to the informant several times. One transaction in April was for more than 1,000 of the pills.

McAusland appeared in federal court on Friday and was released after posting a $100,000 bail bond. He faces up to 40 years in federal prison and a $5 million fine if he is convicted.

Final Hit: Police Officer Caught Selling Drugs To Undercover Federal Informant

McAusland is the third Paterson PD officers busted in the last two weeks. Federal agents arrested Jonathan Bustios, 28, and Eudy Ramos, 31, on April 11. They face charges of conspiring to deprive individuals of their civil rights under color of law.

Bustios and Ramos allegedly stopped drivers on the road while on patrol. After detaining the drivers, the cops conducted unjustified searches of vehicles. The corrupt officers also stole cash from those they stopped on at least one occasion.


Authorities have also charged Bustios with extortion. In that case, he allegedly offered not to arrest a man he had detained if the man in custody helped Bustios obtain a gun. The officer also said he would return cash he had seized in exchange for the firearm.

“I ain’t gonna charge you with resisting, and I’m letting you keep your money, bro. If you don’t wanna make the deal, you don’t have to make the deal,” Bustios told the man, according to local media.

Bustios and Ramos could serve up to ten years in prison for the civil rights violations charges. Additionally, Bustios faces twenty more years behind bars for the extortion case.

Marijuana's margin, like alcohol, is going to be captured in the end product, investor says



  • When looking to the future of cannabis, Navy Capital founder Sean Stiefel says the marijuana industry will look a lot more like the alcohol industry, than big tobacco.
  • Insofar as the alcohol industry has distinctive branding, different product lines and end product-based margins, the marijuana industry could be quite similar.
  • In the short-term, Steifel anticipates Canada's impending nationwide legalization will drive marijuana prices way up.



There's going to be a massive undersupply of pot: Marijuana investor  5 Hours Ago | 04:23

Navy Capital founder Sean Stiefel says for the burgeoning marijuana industry, the profit isn't in the plant — it's in the end product.

"We're talking about vapes, oils, edibles, topicals, sprays -- all of that stuff is coming, and as science catches up to marijuana, you'll see more and more of those end products," Stiefel said on CNBC's "Closing Bell."

Stiefel founded New York-based investment firm Navy Capital in 2014. In 2017, the firm launched Navy Capital Green Fund, which invests in public equities in the global legal cannabis industry.

In Denver, where recreational marijuana has been legal since 2014, Stiefel said sales of the cannabis plant don't dominate the market, so much as products derived from the plant. And that's where the big money is.

"Look on the other side of it, the cosmetics and some of the more luxury items -- you can't keep them on the shelves," he said.

As for the future of the burgeoning industry, Stiefel thinks marijuana will look a lot more like the alcohol industry than big tobacco, but will likely share traits with both.

Insofar as the alcohol industry has distinctive branding, different product lines and product-based margins, the marijuana industry could be quite similar. And while Steifel does not consider cannabis purely a commodity, like tobacco, he does hope the cost of the actual plant will decline considerably.

"We actually would like for the price of raw marijuana to come down, because we are believers that the margin, like alcohol, is going to be captured in the end product," Steifel said. "You don't necessarily know the price of grain or potatoes going in the vodka or beer, but you know the price of the beer, and there's tremendous margins to be captured when you make products for the end user."

In the short-term, however, Steifel anticipates Canada's impending nationwide legalization will drive marijuana prices way up.

Chuck Schumer Announces Plans To Federally Decriminalize Marijuana


In what could be seen as a 420 gift to the cannabis community, Chuck Schumer announces plans to federally decriminalize marijuana. The Democratic senator from New York made his intentions known in an interview with Vice News on April 19.

Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, said he is now officially supporting legislation that would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. The move is a change for Schumer. He has previously supported marijuana for medicinal use and the rights of states to set their own cannabis policy. But now he thinks that all uses of cannabis should no longer carry federal criminal penalties.

“Ultimately, it’s the right thing to do. Freedom. If smoking marijuana doesn’t hurt anybody else, why shouldn’t we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?” he said.

He also noted that current cannabis laws are too harsh.

“I’ve seen too many people’s lives ruined because they had small amounts of marijuana and served time in jail much too long,” he said.

De-scheduling And More

Schumer expects to introduce his new bill in the Senate sometime next week. The legislation includes several changes to federal cannabis policy, although the senator stopped short of calling the measure “legalization.”

First, the law would remove marijuana from the list of substances covered by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). That would effectively end federal prohibition and allow the states to create their own cannabis regulations.

The bill will also include funding to research the effects of cannabis as well as its ability to impair driving a motor vehicle. Tax money would also be used to encourage the creation of marijuana businesses owned by women and minorities.

Finally, Schumer’s bill maintains “federal authority to regulate marijuana advertising in the same way it does alcohol and tobacco.” The senator said that provision is an effort to prevent cannabis businesses from marketing to children.


Schumer Joins Other Democrats, New Yorkers

Schumer is now one of several Democrats in the Senate calling for a change in federal marijuana policy. Last year, Sen. Cory Booker from New Jersey introduced the Marijuana Justice Act in the Senate. Rep. Barbara Lee of California joined Booker and sponsored the measure in the House of Representatives.

That bill would remove cannabis from the CSA, as well. It also contains provisions aimed at repairing some of the damage by the United States’ failed War on Drugs. The measure also includes language that would withhold federal funding from states that continue to criminalize marijuana and prosecute minorities disproportionately.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democrat from Vermont who has long been a proponent of de-scheduling cannabis, just announced his support for Booker’s bill, also on April 19.

Schumer is joining other prominent New Yorkers who have already expressed support for a change in cannabis policy. Cynthia Nixon, who is running for governor of New York, recently announced her desire to change cannabis laws in an effort to promote fairness.

“The simple truth is, for white people, the use of marijuana has effectively been legal for a long time. Isn’t it time we legalize it for everybody else?” she said in a campaign video.

One day later, Democratic incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo jumped on the bandwagon. Because Massachusetts already has legal cannabis and other nearby states like New Jersey are poised to do so, Cuomo said that “for all intents and purposes, it is going to be here anyway.”

Final Hit: Chuck Schumer Announces Plans To Federally Decriminalize Marijuana

If decriminalization succeeds, perhaps you’ll see Schumer at a future 420 party. Although he hasn’t smoked pot yet, he might be up for giving it a try, he told Vice.

“Maybe, I’m a little old, but who knows?” he said.

The US Government Is Asking For Citizens’ Opinions on Marijuana Laws


The US government is asking for citizens’ opinions on marijuana laws. And thousands are responding.

Yes, 4/20 is just around the corner. But before the festivities commence, consider sharing your thoughts about marijuana laws with the federal government, which is inviting “interested persons” to submit public comments on the issue up until April 23. As of Wednesday, more than 5,000 people already have… on the official record, at least.

Even that number—large as it may seem—is a bit misleading. It comes from a government website. The misinformation made it difficult for advocacy organizations to submit comments from supporters. Even using their own third-party submission outlets. NORML, which created one such tool, has received almost 10,000 additional comments. The comments will be printed and hand-delivered to the FDA. You can expect them before the April 23 deadline, Justin Strekal, NORML political director, told High Times.

Why Does the Federal Government Care About Your Weed Opinion All of a Sudden?

The comment period is managed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It was opened in an effort to gauge public sentiment about the legal status of marijuana. THCCBD, and other cannabis compounds were also covered. The comment period was followed by a World Health Organization-led review of international laws on those substances.

You might remember that the federal agency opened a similar comment period last year to get a sense of Americans’ thoughts about CBD.

But this is a bit different. The FDA wants input on whether marijuana itself—not just CBD—should be reclassified under international treaties that mandate strict prohibition among member countries, including the United States. If the World Health Organization loosens the rules on marijuana’s legal status, that could be a serious game changer.

Your Comments Matter. Here’s Why.

According to a summary of the request, the FDA wants “comments concerning abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking, and the impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use of five drug substances.”

“These comments will be considered in preparing a response from the United States to the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the abuse liability and diversion of these drugs. WHO will use this information to consider whether to recommend that certain international restrictions be placed on these drugs.”

In other words, your comments could help inform the country’s position on international marijuana laws. The very laws that have perpetuated prohibition around the world.

How Are People Responding So Far?

It’s no secret that polling shows growing, majority support for marijuana legalization in the U.S. A quick glance at the public comments submitted so far clearly reflects that belief.

The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham tweeted Wednesday, after reviewing the first 50 of the more than 5,000 public comments, that “every single one of them was in support of rescheduling or legalizing marijuana.”


Final Hit: The US Government Is Asking For Citizens’ Opinions on Marijuana Laws

“It’s incredibly important that everyday Americans make their voices heard,” Strekal told us. “One of the reasons why America has the potential to be great is through an active and engaged citizenry—and at the end of the day, democracy is not supposed to be a spectator sport.”

“The process that we’re going through right now is merely a procedural process for the FDA to go through in order to compile their report back to the WHO regarding the exact scheduling of cannabis under international treaties,” he said.

“This is not even in regard to U.S. policy. This is a comment period for international policy—and the ramifications that that international policy has on providing cover for prohibitionist lawmakers and their sympathizer lawmakers to not reform our laws.”

Marijuana's effects on young brains diminish 72 hours after use, research says


Marijuana is notorious for slowing certain cognitive functions such as learning, memory and attention span (maybe that's why they call it "dope"?). But new research in young people suggests that these cognitive effects, while significant, may not persist for very long, even among chronic users.

The meta-analysis, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, combines data from 69 previous studies that look at the effects of heavy cannabis use on cognitive functioning in adolescents and young adults. It found that those young people who identified as heavy marijuana users scored significantly lower than non-users in a variety of cognitive domains such as learning, abstraction, speed of processing, delayed memory, inhibition and attention.

"There have been a couple of meta-analyses done in adult samples, but this is the first one to be done specifically in adolescent and young adult samples," said Cobb Scott, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and a lead author of the study.

    "We looked at everything from learning and memory to different aspects of executive functioning such as abstraction ability," Scott said. "And we basically showed that the largest effects -- which was around a third of a standard deviation -- was in the learning of new information and some aspects of executive functioning, memory and speed of processing."


    Weed users found to have poorer verbal memory in middle age

    But when the researchers separated the studies based on length of abstinence from marijuana use, the difference in cognitive functioning between marijuana users and non-users was no longer apparent after 72 hours of marijuana abstinence. That could be an indication "that some of the effects found in previous studies may be due to the residual effects of cannabis or potentially from withdrawal effects in heavy cannabis users," Scott said.

    The study comes as America continues to debate the merits of marijuana legalization. Recreational marijuana use is legal in nine statesTwenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized some form of medical marijuana use, with at least three additional states potentially deciding on the issue in the upcoming November election, according to Melissa Moore, New York deputy state director for the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance.

    Studies on the long-term cognitive effects of marijuana use among adolescents and young adults have shown inconsistent results. A 2008 study reported that frequent or early-onset cannabis use among adolescents was associated with poorer cognitive performance in tasks requiring executive functioning, attention and episodic memory.

    A 2014 study also warned against the use of marijuana during adolescence, when certain parts of the brain responsible for executive functioning -- such as the prefrontal cortex -- are still developing.

    "There have been very important studies showing evidence for irreversible damage (from marijuana use), and so there needs to be more research in this area," said Kevin Sabet, assistant adjunct professor at the Yale School of Medicine and president of the nonprofit Smart Approaches to Marijuana, who was not involved in the new study.

    "I hope they're right. We want there to be little effect after 72 hours. But given the other studies that have had very large sample sizes that have been published over the past five years in prominent journals, I think we need to look into that more," added Sabet, whose group is focused on the harms of marijuana legalization.


    Marijuana legalization could help offset opioid epidemic, studies find

    But a number of recent studies have also shown that the association between marijuana use and reduced cognitive functioning disappears after controlling for factors such as psychiatric illness and substance use disorders, according to Scott.

    In an attempt to make sense of these discordant results, the new research combined data from 69 previous studies, resulting in a comparison of 2,152 frequent marijuana users with 6,575 non-users. Participants ranged in age from 10 to 50, with an average age of 21.

    The researchers found that, overall, the cognitive functioning of frequent marijuana users was reduced by one-third of a standard deviation compared with non-frequent marijuana users -- a relatively small effect size, according to Scott.

    "It surprised, I think, all of us doing this analysis that the effects were not bigger than we found," Scott said. "But I would say that the clinical significance of a quarter of a standard deviation is somewhat questionable."

    But according to Sabet, even a relatively small effect size could be important, especially in a large meta-analysis such as this one.

    "The small effect size may be meaningful in a large population, and again, all (cognitive) measures are worse for those using marijuana," Sabet said.

    "The study is pretty bad news for marijuana users," he added. "Overall, I think this is consistent with the literature that marijuana use shows worse cognitive outcomes among users versus non-users."

    In an effort to identify other potential factors that could have affected the relationship between marijuana use and cognition, the researchers also separated the studies based on the length of marijuana abstinence, age of first cannabis use, sociodemographic characteristics and clinical characteristics such as depression.

    Of these, only the length of marijuana abstinence was found to significantly affect the association between chronic marijuana use and reduced cognitive functioning. Specifically, cognitive functioning appeared to return to normal after about 72 hours of marijuana abstinence -- a threshold identified in previous studies, according to Scott.

    "The reason we chose the 72-hour mark is that in looking at the data on cannabis withdrawal effects in heavy cannabis users, 72 hours seems to be past the peak of most withdrawal effects that occur," he said.


    Marijuana legalization by the numbers

    However, the 69 studies included in the review did not have a uniform definition for "chronic" or "frequent" marijuana use, one of the study's main limitations, according to Sabet.

    "When you put all of these studies together that have different definitions of marijuana users and are from different times, it's not surprising that you'd get a smaller effect size," Sabet said.

    The studies also relied on a variety of tests to determine cognitive functioning, including the Trail Making Test, the Digital Span Memory Test and the California Verbal Learning test, according to Scott.

    "The other thing that's important to highlight is that we're only looking at cognitive functioning. We're not looking at risks for other adverse outcomes with cannabis use, like risk for psychosis, risks for cannabis use problems or other medical issues like lung functioning outcomes," Scott said.

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    But the results still suggest that the negative cognitive effects of marijuana use, while significant in the short-term, probably diminish with time. They also shed light on the need for more research in this area, particularly as cannabis policy in the United States continues to change at a rapid pace.

    "As attitudes change about cannabis use and cannabis use becomes a little bit more accepted in terms of policy and government regulation and medical cannabis use increases, I think we need to have a real understanding of the potential risks and benefits of cannabis use," Scott said.

    Pennsylvania to Make Whole-Plant Cannabis Flower Available to Patients


    Dry leaf cannabis is coming to Pennsylvania dispensaries following a decision by the state Department of Health, which on Monday approved a move to make whole-plant cannabis flower available to state medical marijuana patients.

    The move is expected to lower costs and improve patient access to cannabis, which went on sale to qualified patients in February. The program currently permits only oils and concentrates.

    “Dry leaf or flower will be sold in Pennsylvania dispensaries in a form that can be vaporized, not smoked, later this summer.”

    Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania Health Secretary

    Smoking cannabis would still be prohibited under the new rule, which is aimed at allowing patients to vaporize the plant. But while state law prohibits dispensaries from selling products designed to be smoked, patients advocates such as Chris Goldstein have pointed out that cannabis flower sold for vaping could also be smoked.

    Still, the law is clear: “Dry leaf or flower will be sold in Pennsylvania dispensaries in a form that can be vaporized, not smoked, later this summer,” Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement. But in practice, the two forms are indistinguishable, and it’s not clear what measures, if any, the state may take to prevent patients from smoking the plant.

    Other changes approved by the Health Department would expand the list of qualifying conditions, eliminate the need for patients to pay for a medical cannabis ID card more than once per year, allow doctors to opt-out of a public list of registered physicians, and require children’s recommendations to be certified by a pediatrician or pediatric specialist.

    Only a few states have adopted medical cannabis programs that explicitly forbid the sale of smokable flower. Some that have, such as Minnesota, have struggled to attract patients or move them out of the illicit market. Others, such as Florida, have been hit with legal challenges.



    Minnesota Medical Cannabis Providers Run $11M in Red

    “Allowing cannabis in its natural, flower form and expanding the list of qualifying conditions will have a huge positive impact on seriously ill Pennsylvanians,” Becky Dansky, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. The advocacy group said that the current restriction on whole-plant cannabis has led to product shortages and “prohibitively expensive” medicine across the state.

    In Florida, where the state’s medical cannabis law prohibits smokable flower, a judge last week ruled that a 77-year-old man could grow his own cannabis for juicing. None of the treatment centers licensed in that state currently offer whole-plant or juicing products, yet a doctor recommended cannabis juice as part of treatment to prevent a relapse of stage-four lung cancer.

    A separate lawsuit challenging Florida’s ban on smokable forms of cannabis is scheduled to go to trial next month.



    John Morgan Sues to Overturn Florida’s Smokeable-Cannabis Ban

    In Pennsylvania, the changes approved by Health Department are set to take effect on May 12, when the agency promulgates official regulations.

    “By being able to provide medical marijuana in plant form, producers will be able to get medicine into the hands of patients much more quickly and for much lower cost to patients,” Dansky said. “This is vitally important for patient access right now while the program is still getting off the ground and production is not yet at full capacity. We hope these rules are promulgated as quickly as possible so even more patients will be able to find relief.”

    According to the state government, more than 30,000 patients have registered to participate in the medical cannabis program, with more than 10,000 having received ID cards and purchased cannabis at a dispensary. Nearly 1,000 physicians have registered for the program, with more than half of those having been certified.