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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

National News - June 2015 - by Rachel Bunting

No Relief for Vets
Washington D.C.- A spending amendment that would have allowed veterans easier access to medical marijuana was rejected in the House of Representatives. The amendment would have blocked the Veterans Health Administration from punishing doctors who participate in their state medical marijuana programs. Currently the VHA does not allow its doctors to even discuss marijuana as a treatment option, so vets have to turn to other sources for guidance and paperwork to receive the medication. The measure failed in the House by three votes, which would have been only one vote but Rep. John Garamendi of California told US News he mistakenly misread the amendment and voted no by accident.

     Since marijuana is illegal at the federal level no American doctors can legally prescribe the drug they can just recommend it. The other “no” vote came from Rep. Morgan Griffith of Virginia who believes the amendment didn’t go far enough. He thinks the entire law needs to be changed and would like to see marijuana reclassified as a schedule II drug. He doesn’t think the government should just be “papering” over the law as it is already flawed and amending the law makes it less likely the law will ever be changed. Many who support the amendment feel that veterans should not be treated differently than non-veterans who use civilian doctors.  Rep. Jason Chaffetz told US News, “Brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for this country deserve the right to have an open dialogue with the doctors who care for them. This amendment would have allow doctors to discuss the best treatment options available to veterans.”

Smoke the Sacrament
Indiana- The inaugural worship of the First Church of Cannabis will be held on July 1st, the same day the religious freedom law will take effect in the state. Currently marijuana is illegal to possess, use, or grow under Indiana’s state law, but the First Church of Cannabis uses the plant as a sacrament so under the new religious freedom law, churchgoers should be able to use their sacrament at service without breaking the law. Founder of the church, Bill Levin, says the service will open with “Amazing Grace”, move to a quick sermon, then member testimonies about positive events of the previous week. When testimonies have finished Levin will issue a call to worship and invite everyone to light up.

     While the church has already raised $10,000 on Go Fund Me, Levin is having trouble finding a church to lease him the space though he is aggressively following every lead.  He is determined the service will happen and will consider any suitable alternative, even a religious campground or public park. It is still unclear if police and prosecutors of the area will accept the claim that actions taken within the church are protected by the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The new religious law has stirred controversy throughout the US with many believing it is a way of discriminating against sexual minorities. Levin is hopeful that the church will rehabilitate the state’s image in the eyes of the more progressive Americans. While he is certain that the events will go as planned, Levin is hoping to hire a few off-duty police officers for security reasons.

        According to US News, a spokeswoman for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office does not believe there will be any police interference at the worship service but did note that the ‘law doesn’t necessarily protect people who commit crimes from being arrested. “It’s that they could assert a defense if they are prosecuted”.’ Even with this as a defense Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, says that this type of argument has been used in the past to justify marijuana use and that it has never prevailed as a good enough argument. Levin is certain of the legality of his cause, having received legal advice from many sources, and believes his opening service will have a packed house.

Tennessee Oil
Tennessee- Cannabidiol (CBD) oil has been made legal in Tennessee, for limited medical purposes only however. While it will not help many patients that need the medical marijuana there are many suffering from seizures in the state that look at the new law as sweet relief. Patients need to obtain a recommendation from a doctor to begin using the oil, but they are not permitted to use any oil made in Tennessee. This has patients recommended for the treatment looking to Colorado and California for medication. Another bill was introduced late in legislative session this year that would have allowed for medical marijuana to be used in cases other than those involving seizures. However that bill went too far for some supporters, calling for patients to surrender their driver’s license and would not permit smoking the drug for any reason. The bill, which hasn’t been voted on, is expected to be discussed further over the summer.

Roswell May Soon Be Home to Little Green…Buds
Roswell, New Mexico- The Roswell-Chaves County Extraterritorial Commission voted and approved to change zoning in the area, which would permit a medical marijuana facility to be opened near Roswell.

     Pecos Valley Pharmaceuticals is hoping to open the facility on the site of a former dairy farm. Their consultant, Kevin Cheney told the Roswell Daily Record that the approval from the commission should boost the chances of the company receiving a license from the New Mexico Department of Health to grow the plants. The proposed area would not be allowed to sell marijuana to the public, would have extremely tight security, and could grow up to 450 plants indoors.

Baby Steps for the Lone Star State
Texas- On May 6th the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee surprised marijuana supporters by approving legislation that would make buying and selling recreational marijuana legal. House Bill 2165 passed the committee with a 5-2 victory. Though there is no chance of the bill passing any other obstacles on the journey to become a law, supporters see it as a step in the right direction. The approval came just two days after the same committee voted in favor of decriminalizing the drug, the first time such a proposal made it out of a Texas legislative committee.

     Republican David Simpson was one of those voting to approve the bill stating, “I don’t believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix.” On May 20th a different kind of bill passed the Texas House of Representatives, after a third reading, that would allow limited use of CBD oils for medicinal reasons. Many believe this definitively proves that, in regards to marijuana, the times are changing. The bill is moving to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk for the final approval.

CBD Study Shows Promise
New York- Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of the New York University Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, conducted a study to determine the effects and safety of Epidolex, a drug made from cannabidiol (CBD). The study used 213 participants, ranging from young children to adults, with extreme forms of epilepsy that are difficult to treat. Twelve participants had negative reactions to the medication, such as diarrhea, decreased appetite, and tiredness, and were unable to complete the study. However the 201 people that were able to complete the study experienced an average 54 percent decrease in the number of seizures experienced. While the results are promising Dr. Devinsky insists more tests with bigger test groups and using placebos are needed to confirm the safety and effectiveness of the drug. The study was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and supported by GW Pharmaceuticals. The results were presented at the 2015 American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting.

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