Friday, March 3, 2017
National News for March 2017 - by Rachel Bunting
Texas: A man from California was arrested in Texas for carrying his medical marijuana into the state. Phillip Blanton was on his way to visit his granddaughter in a Houston hospital when he was pulled over. Texas does allow for the use of medical marijuana, but only for patients with a rare form of epilepsy. Blanton was given his prescription in his home state for chronic pain he still suffers as a survivor of polio. This case brings light to the conflicting laws between states regarding medical marijuana. Authorities in the case are still determining whether charges will be sought against Blanton.
California: Researchers in Northern California gathered various marijuana strains from different dispensaries in the area to test for safety. The results are worrisome for medical patients with compromised immune systems as nearly 20 of the strains tested were found to contain mold and bacteria. The fungi and bacteria found consisted of Cryptococcus, Mucor and Aspergillus, E. coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Acinetobacter baumannii. Researchers warn that inhaling these pathogens can lead to serious illness or death because it “provides a direct portal of entry deep into the lungs, where infection can easily take hold.” Though the samples were gathered only from Northern Cali dispensaries, officials warn the problem may be more widespread, not only in California but in other legalized states as well.
Washington DC: Many voters have been waiting to hear the new White House administration’s stance on recreational and medical marijuana. Late last month press secretary Sean Spicer clarified that stance releasing a statement that [the White House] expects law enforcement agents to enforce federal marijuana laws when they have a conflict in a legalized state. Spicer stating at a press conference, “I do believe you will see greater enforcement of it.” The Obama administration took a very different stance, releasing a memo informing agencies to not interfere with states that have legalized the plant, saying there are “bigger fish to fry”. Spicer mentioned in his statement that marijuana use is linked to widespread painkiller use, which is becoming an epidemic in our country.
CNN got a quote from Spicer stating, “When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people. There is still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana and drugs of that nature.” He did distinguish that there is a difference between medical and recreational use, acknowledging President Trump’s belief that medical marijuana can help “ease the suffering for patients with terminal illness”. Originally Trump stated in his 2016 campaign that legal recreational use was “bad”, but later suggested it should be decided by the states rather than the federal government. Unfortunately, after Spicer’s comments, states with legal recreational use could start seeing a larger amount of federal interference.
Tennessee: Officers found a large stash of marijuana after pulling over a man for speeding last month. Sedrick Talley was pulled over by an officer from the Metro Nashville Police Department for driving 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. Police claim they could smell marijuana while walking up to the vehicle and discovered a joint near the gear shift. Talley was placed under arrest while the rest of his vehicle was searched. Officers found nearly 18 pounds of marijuana in a large garbage bag in the trunk of the car. Talley will face multiple charges for transporting the dried flowers.
Ohio: Ohio’s new medical marijuana law allows for patients to become certified if they qualify for one of twenty approved conditions. While twenty qualifying conditions is more than many states, the proposed limits on the amount of marijuana a patient can possess could end up being the strictest in the country. The state does not allow for smoking the plant but dispensaries are able to sell plant material and oils which may be vaporized, as well as patches, tinctures, and edibles. The limit proposal suggests the amount a patient may possess; a 90-day supply, which will be defined by the amount of THC in the product.
Ohio will be the first state to measure medication limits this way. According to Cleveland.com, the executive director of the State Board of Pharmacy told the Ohio Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee, “I think this is the right approach because we’re in the middle of the pack of states that have adopted this. We’ve benefited from what other states have done and have the benefit of their successes and failures.” Patients will be allowed to mix and match their products but the THC may not exceed the set 90-day supply.
The limits are as follows: 6 ounces of plant material with THC levels below 23 percent, 4 ounces of plant material with THC levels above 23 percent -- the maximum level allowed is 35 percent, 40.5 grams of THC in vaping oils (220 mg per day), 19.8 grams of THC in transdermal patches (450mg per day), and 9 grams of THC in edibles, oils and tinctures taken orally (100 mg per day). Patients can submit their comments on the new rules until March 10th when they will have to go through two more stages until they are finalized.
New York: Numerous studies have been published about the effects of marijuana in dealing with pain. THC has been shown to lower the pain levels in nearly everyone who used it medicinally. These pain-reducing effects may be helping to curb the opioid epidemic that has been sweeping the country according to new research. A study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conducted in 2016 has found that states with medical marijuana laws had about 25 percent fewer opioid overdose deaths than states with no marijuana laws. Health Affairs printed a study last year claiming prescriptions for opioid based painkillers dropped “substantially” in states with a medical marijuana program.
New York recently began allowing patients suffering from chronic pain to be approved for medical marijuana, so long as other courses of action were unsuccessful. Originally New York, as well as other states such as Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, and New Hampshire, did not include pain as a condition for a medical card as there were concerns the category was too broad. Many physicians in the area are skeptical of allowing patients to get their marijuana card for pain as they tend to advocate for all non-drug treatments before resorting to drug treatments, including marijuana.
As marijuana is still considered a schedule I drug, the access to legal marijuana to use for medical studies and federal funds to conduct the research are extremely limited. This has made it difficult for states like New York to refer to scientific studies when determining which ailments should be added to their list of qualifying conditions.