A Friendlier 420 Government

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On Tuesday June 24, 2014, HuffPost reported that the Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing the medical evidence associated with the safety and effectiveness of marijuana in an effort to possibly downgrade the classification of the drug as a Schedule I drug which is the most dangerous. As Matt Ferner explains in the article, FDA To Evaluate Marijuana For Potential Reclassification As Less Dangerous Drug, the recent review of the drug was at the behest of the Drug Enforcement Agency according to the FDA Press Officer, Jeff Ventura. Ventura describes the process to Ferner as follows: “FDA conducts for Health and Human Services a scientific and medical analysis of the drug under consideration, which is currently ongoing. HHS then recommends to DEA that the drug be placed in a given schedule. DEA considers HHS’ analysis, conducts its own assessment, and makes a final scheduling proposal in the form of a proposed rule.”

The United States currently has five schedules for drugs or chemicals to make those drugs. Schedule I covers those drugs the DEA regards as the highest potential for abuse with no medical use such as heroin and LSD. While rescheduling would not legalize marijuana, it could allow for more research into the drug as well as allow banks to feel more secure about lending to state legalize marijuana businesses. During a Friday House Committee hearing on Oversight and Government Reform, FDA Deputy Director Doug Throckmorton stated, “While DEA is the lead federal agency responsible for regulating controlled substances and enforcing the Controlled Substances Act, FDA, working with NIDA, provides scientific recommendations about the appropriate controls for those substances. To make these recommendations, FDA is responsible for preparing what’s called an eight-factor analysis, which is a document that is used to assess how likely a drug is to be abused. There are eight factors the FDA must consider when deciding which schedule marijuana falls under (as described by the CSA):

  1. Its actual or relative potential for abuse
  2. Scientific evidence of its pharmacological effect, if known
  3. The state of current scientific knowledge regarding the drug or other substance
  4. Its history and current pattern of abuse
  5. The scope, duration, and significance of abuse
  6. What, if any, risk there is to the public health
  7. Its psychic or physiological dependence liability
  8. Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled under this subchapter

The reason for the current review, as explained to HuffPost by a DEA spokeswoman, is due to two public citizens who petition the agency for review. If the review favors rescheduling and the DEA approves, marijuana could be moved to a Schedule II drug like cocaine and methamphetamine. Two previous times, in 2001 and 2006, marijuana has come up for review due to similar requests and both times federal regulators felt that it should remain a Schedule I substance since at the time there was not enough research about the efficacy in treating ailments. The only federally legal marijuana garden in the U.S. resides at the University of Mississippi and the National Institute on Drug Abuse oversees that operation. NIDA has conducted 30 studies on the benefits of marijuana to date, while approving more than 500 grants for marijuana studies as there has been a market upswing in recent years, according to McClatchy. Both the DEA and other federal authorities have been accused of obstructing science around the drug and delaying the rescheduling process.  As of recent, a number of studies have demonstrated the increasing medical potential of cannabis as the purified forms help to fight certain forms of aggressive cancer even finding that its use helps with blood sugar control and slowing the spread of HIV.  Right now, there are 22 states and the District of Columbia, according to Ferner, that have legalized marijuana for medical use with New York being next in line. In addition, 10 other states have legalized CBD-oil, a non-psychoactive ingredient often used for epilepsy patients, for research or limited medical purposes. Even though the FDA is not ready to approve marijuana as a safe and effective drug, it does want to continue to study the potential benefits for medical treatment. Posted last Friday, the FDA did say with regards to its latest guiedlines for the drug that:

“The FDA has not approved marijuana as a safe and effective drug for any indication. The FDA is aware that there is considerable interest in its use to attempt to treat a number of medical conditions, including, for example, glaucoma, AIDS wasting syndrome, neuropathic pain, cancer, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and certain seizure disorders.”

Colorado May Not Be As 420 Friendly As We Thought

Despite the massive amount of revenue to the state and for that matter federal government the legalization of marijuana could bring, Colorado is re-considering its legalization of marijuana. As people tens of thousands of people from all walks of life descended on Denver Colorado on April 20,2013, no one expected that the celebration would be cut short. After the Boston Marathon bombing, police focused on crowd security and were not as concerned about the yearly pot event billed as the largest April 20 celebration.  The festival the previous year brought 50,000 people together and were hoping to bring more people since it is the first celebration since Colorado and Washington voted to legalize recreational use Associated Press reports. Even with legalization, open and public use is illegal, but authorities look the other way as the 420 friendly participants celebrate at a park at the base of the state Capitol and music keeps the crowd entertained well past 4:20. Both states are waiting for federal response to votes and want to set up commercial pit sales limited only to medicinal marijuana right now. The celebration drew many marijuana activists from out of state.

However the day was marred by a shooting during the rally that wounded two people and Denver police last Monday had yet to arrest anyone in connection with incident but did interview a man wanted in connection causing the event to be canceled for security reasons. The man seen in a YouTube video was believed to be an accomplice to the primary shooter last Saturday according to police spokesman Sonny Jackson. Police urged people to watch the video showing a man in brown and wearing a white checkered shirt walking away from the scene. Jackson said last Monday the man came in voluntarily and spoke to detectives then left later that day. Police received numerous tips based on videos and photos provided by revelers and encouraged the public to keep sending them around the time of 5p.m. when the shooting occurred. Still unknown is the primary shooter but the man was wearing a blue hat, gray sweatshirt and black pants at the rally and it is not known whether it is gang related or not Associated Press reports. The shooting happened last Saturday at the end of the outdoor celebration when the crowd became panicked after shots were heard leaving a man and woman with non-life threatening gunshot wounds and a juvenile grazed by a  bullet which was treated at a nearby hospital. Organizers canceled a Sunday event after the shooting and it remains unclear if the shooting would affect future events.

This last Friday, backers of the Amendment 64 announced a news conference for the morning at the State Capitol to denounce what they are saying is an effort by anti-legalization group’s effort to repeal Colorado’s recreational marijuana legislation Huff Post reports. Mason Tvert, former co-director of the Amendment 64 campaign ans communication director of the Marijuana Policy Project, states that “numerous Colorado state lawmakers are considering supporting a strategic maneuver to repeal Amendment 64 floated by anti-marijuana group Smart Colorado.” According to Huff Post, Tvert believes lawmakers are considering putting the secret measure before Colorado voters on November 2013 if voters don’t pass a separate measure on marijuana taxes which is on the same ballot. Tvert, according to his statement, commented,”We are surprised that legislators are even taking this proposal seriously. Placing such a measure on the ballot would amount to extortion of the voters. They will be told that they must vote for whatever taxes the legislators choose in order to prevent the repeal of the constitutional amendment they just approved.” Any effort to repeal the law may be more difficult as the measure is part of the state constitution which requires the lawmakers to prove a repeal would be constitutional. Two thirds majority of the House and Senate would be needed to place the repeal on the ballot and with less than two weeks left on the legislative calendar this year makes it almost impossible to do.

 

Tvert commented the two ballots would be included in the same resolution, while lawmakers have not commented yet. The House Finance Committee did pass House Bill 1318 7-6 last Thursday which wants 15 percent excise tax and 15 percent special sales tax on marijuana in the state according to Huff Post. The Associated Press’s Kristen Wyatt reported that some state lawmakers fear voters could reject one or both tax proposals leaving the state to foot the bill for enforcing pot sales. Although HB-1318 passed, it did so with a narrow margin in committee while the same is true of HB-1317 which lays out the regulatory structure for recreational sales in the state with a vote of 6-5. According to a Public Policy Poll, Huff Post reports that backers of Amendment 64 have confirmed that 77 percent of the voters support a 10 percent sales tax in addition to the 15 percent excise tax with only 18 percent opposed. The poll polled 900 registered voters from April15-16. The taxes if passed would yield $90.9 million according to the Colorado Futures Center, but backers of the amendment were told by state officials that the cost to enforce the recreational regulations would be no greater than $30 million meaning lawmakers could lower the tax rates to 10 percent and still come out ahead at $60 million. Tvert said on Friday, “If legislators are concerned that a special sales tax will not pass, they should consider reducing the tax rate to 10% instead of embracing the nuclear option proposed by anti-marijuana advocates.”

Smart Colorado the Huff Post reports describes their vocal opposition to marijuana legalization on their website as:

 

We are citizens from every county and corner of the state. We have banded together as individuals and organizations to form this nonpartisan, broad-based alliance dedicated to a responsible and reasonable approach to marijuana policy.Using reputable science and sound principles of public health and safety, we advocate for smart policies that decrease marijuana use and its harm to our people, communities, businesses and healthcare system.

Smart Colorado puts the public’s interests ahead of the interests of the marijuana industry.

The actual Amendment 64 passed last November limits sale, possession and growing of the drug for recreational purposes legal for adults 21 and over. A64 states:

Adults can possess up to an ounce of pot, can grow as many as six marijuana plants at home (with only three flowering at any given time), but that home-grown marijuana can only be for personal use and cannot be sold, however, adults can gift one another up to an ounce of pot.

 

Nederland Could Be First Town To Set Up For Recreational Marijuana Industry In Colorado

 Nederland Could Be First Town To Set Up For Recreational Marijuana Industry In Colorado.

Well this town has the right idea because the reality is that whether people are 420 friendly or not, people will continue to use marijuana so why not regulate like alcohol. At least some benefits to all will be had from the regulation of this very common drug. Marijuana advocates tired of waiting for Amendment 64 to be implemented are looking to pass a local ordinance in Nederland that would make it the first in Colorado to set up recreational marijuana industry before the statewide regulations goes into effect. Mayor Joe Gierlach dismisses their actions saying the people who drafted it don’t understand the planning processes and time it takes to set up regulations. A shadow task force made up of advocates monitoring the government appointed task force make their legal recommendations  for the set up of recreational marijuana facilities  and also brought their own ordinance to Nederland Town Clerk. Rico Colibri who is a member of this group said that the slow progress in establishing statewide regulations shows that the state isn’t ready to do what it promised which is have marijuana regulated like alcohol. “Amendment 64 was a message to D.C. — that is what they said during the campaign — and our ordinance is a message to the General Assembly,” Colibri said.

One issue driving the ordinance is a desire to get rid of black market distribution which without regulated businesses would get rid of marijuana purchases that are supporting criminals. It is now legal for adults 21 and older to purchase an ounce of marijuana to use it in their homes. Right now sophisticate drug cartels are providing the marijuana, instead of the small town being able to collect tax revenue and setting an example of what the state could do says Colibri. The ordinance would allow separate licenses for cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers making it easier to have places where production, sale and consumption could legally take place under one roof. Next on the agenda once verified, will be collect 420 signatures from Nederland voters which will demonstrate strong support and convince the Board of Trustees to adopt it without voting on it in the next election. Mayor Gierlach referred to the ordinance as premature and “until we can revise our codes in a very sensible way that makes sense for the community, who knows…I don’t think people even want Rico (Colibri ) to write our local code” since he is new to the area. He also said that the ordinance raises concerns about potential zoning issues and in response to the black market many residents grow their own which may be impacted negatively. The town has a meeting Feb. 26 where the town attorney will be updating the town on implications at the state level and local implementation task force will be seated. In addition, other meetings with the town’s advisory board wil be scheduled and sustainability criteria will be applied to any new regulation.