There has been much breaking news lately in the cannabis industry where changes in legislation are finally reflecting the changes in attitudes about cannabis. I thought a Cannabis News Round-Up was needed as there is much progress being made towards ending the prohibition of cannabis. Many of you may not watch the news as closely as I do.
First up is new legislation by Democratic Senator Minority Whip, Chuck Schumer of NY. On 4/20, he announced that he intends to introduce a bill to federally decriminalize cannabis. This is really, really big news. Schumer is proposing the removal of cannabis from the 1970 Controlled Substance List as a Schedule I drug. Cannabis research on human trials has been stalled for decades due to its Schedule I status; no medical value and includes heroin, LSD and ecstasy. Much of what the cannabis community knows to be true about the medicinal benefits of the plant is substantiated almost entirely by anecdotal evidence. With this change, scientific research results will now be available to verify those claims.
In addition, Senator Schumer’s bill would provide funding for women and minority-owned cannabis businesses, requiring more research on its impact on health, while regulating federal advertising for the cannabis industry similar to that of tobacco and alcohol. When asked if he had ever used cannabis, Senator Schumer said he had not, but he did say “If smoking marijuana doesn’t hurt anybody else, why shouldn’t we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?”
Next up is The Hemp Farming Act of 2018. You may not be aware of the fact that it is still federally illegal to grow industrial hemp without a permit in the US. Even though it contains only trace amounts of THC and is not psychotropic, it is still on the Controlled Substance List as a Schedule I drug. This bill would remove it from the list. The majority of hemp products that are sold in this country are manufactured from imported hemp. I cannot stress how much of a game changer this will be. The US has been missing out on billions of dollars of income by keeping hemp illegal. The sponsor of this bill is none other than Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell of KY. Industrial hemp would be a boom industry for Kentucky farmers and allow them to reduce tobacco production in favor of hemp production. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture approved 12,800 acres in 71 counties for hemp cultivation. There are 200 growers and 40 processors.
Although the 2014 Farm Bill did allow the limited production and research of hemp in a few states, this legislation would open up mass production of this valuable cash crop across the country. Hemp is an amazing plant. It is very easy to grow, requires less water than many other crops and absorbs CO2 which may just save us from global warming. Just about anything can be made from hemp including cars, airplanes, homes and plastic substitutes. It is possible to grow 2 crops a year. The bill would allow states to regulate hemp, create federal grants for more research, and allow hemp goods to be transported to all 50 states. 30 other states already have pilot projects in the works.
Finally, in Illinois, Senate Bill 336, which would allow those with opioid prescriptions to apply for a medical cannabis card, was overwhelmingly passed by the Illinois Senate on April 27, 2018. In addition, two of the draconian rules of the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program would be rescinded; the background check and fingerprinting. Until recently, there was virtually no mention by the mainstream media that medical cannabis was a viable and safe alternative to opioid medications. Medical cannabis patients have known this for years and have been frustrated with the many doctors who willingly prescribe opioids but refuse to certify prospective patients for medical cannabis. This is a huge step in the right direction.
BTW, Midwest Compassion Center CEO Nicole Van Rensburg was interviewed for The Chicago Tribune article about the passage of SB 336 and was quoted!
At Midwest Compassion Center, a state-licensed medical cannabis dispensary in Romeoville, CEO Nicole van Rensburg is no stranger to the heart-wrenching stories from patients afflicted by opioids: “There was a 21% increase in opioid-related deaths from 2015 to 2016, and data for 2017, still being collected by the Centers for Disease Control, is already showing a 27% increase,” said van Rensburg.
“I can’t begin to explain how moving it is to hear a patient say, ‘this has changed my life,’ and knowing that all the hard work, all the long nights, all the regulatory requirements – all of it – was worth every moment.”
In the words of D-OR Congressman Earl Blumenauer, “The train has left the station for marijuana reform. This is going to happen. The American public demands it.”
Sources: NPR.org, On 4/20, Chuck Schumer To Introduce Bill To Decriminalize Marijuana, Susan Davis, April 20, 2018
WKYU.FM.org, Mitch McConnell To File Bill To Decriminalize, Promote Hemp, Ryland Barton, March 26, 2018
ChicagoTribune.com, From the community: Medical Cannabis As A Replacement To Opioids Could Become Reality, RJ Starr, February 9, 2018