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Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduce MEDS Act

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Sen. Brian Schatz from his website. Photo above is of Senator Hatch in front of the Capital

This week four Senators introduced the the MEDS Act to streamline the process of approving any medicine derived from the cannabis plant.  Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah (shown above), Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina introduced the Marijuana Effective Drug Studies Act (MEDS) of 2016.

The MEDS Act offers comprehensive, responsible solutions instead of “medicine by ballot initiative,” or the poorly-designed CARERS Act.

Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii explains: “The MEDS Act will remove excessive barriers that make it difficult for researchers to study the effectiveness and safety of marijuana, and hopefully, give patients more treatment options.”

Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina said: “The MEDS Act is a commonsense, bipartisan effort to remove unnecessary barriers that will give scientists the ability to study the biochemical processes, impact, dosing, risks and possible benefits of cannabidiol and other components of the marijuana plant.”

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Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Photo: Political Insider

As Smart Approaches to Marijuana which supports the bill explains, the bill:

*Enables more research on marijuana by creating a faster, more streamlined process for obtaining approval from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to conduct research, including the ability to amend and supplement research proposals without reapplying. Currently, researchers who want to conduct research on marijuana must interface with several federal agencies and engage in a complex application process that can take a year or longer must start from scratch if they make any changes to their research proposal;

*Eliminates the burdensome requirement of some DEA field offices that marijuana be kept in bolted safes – a requirement not possible in many research and clinical settings – and codifies current DEA regulations that allow marijuana to be stored in securely locked, substantially constructed cabinets; and

*Requires the licensing of marijuana manufacturers for the purpose of valid scientific and clinical research and drug development and establishes manufacturing licenses for the commercial production of FDA-approved medical marijuana products.

Dr. Kevin Sabet, President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said. “Despite state laws, raw marijuana (smoked or ingested) is not medicine, and has never passed through the rigorous FDA approval process to ensure the health and safety of patients.  The plant’s components should be studied so those in need can access any therapeutic benefits while knowing dosage, side effects, and contraindications. And more broadly speaking, the MEDS Act upholds the important, basic principle that all medications-including marijuana-based drugs-should go through the scientific process and accessed through legitimate doctors.”

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Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware. Photo: Getty Images

The American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Society of Addiction Medicine, American Preventive Medical Association, American Pain Society, American Society of Anesthesiologists, and the American Academy of Pain Medicine in support of the MEDS Act.

We salute the bipartisan nature of this bill.   In the House of Representatives, Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Rep. Sam Farr of California, Rep. Morgan Griffith of Virginia and Rep Andy Harris of Maryland are expected to introduce a similar bill.

The MEDS Act represents a great improvement over the CARERS Act.  Three Senators presented the CARERS Act to garner media attention last year.  It was a dramatic gesture.  We live in a time when too many people believe that anything derived from nature, such is poison ivy or snake oil, must be safe because it is “from nature” or “a gift from God.”  Sometimes these purveyors of natural medicine make promises that cannot be kept.

Many states do not keep track of doctors and others who prescribe “medical” marijuana for nebulous reasons.  Other states, such as New Jersey and Illinois, have highly controlled program.

Psychiatric problems that have ballooned in states that give out medical marijuana without reasonable medical purpose, but that can be addressed at a later date.   For this reason a doctor in Florida, is urging residents in his states not to pass Amendment 2.  “The easy access to marijuana has led to exacerbations of chronic health conditions, particularly mental health disease. It is difficult to fully quantify the worsening of psychosis, anxiety, depression and other mental health diseases, but easy access to marijuana and other narcotics makes a bad condition worse.”  warned Dr. Allen Weiss, head of the Naples Health Care System.

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I Didn’t Know His Recovery Was Possible

Recovery was possible for my son, but we are lucky.  He is now 23 and if you asked me three years ago, I wasn’t sure he could get to where he is today.

He spent one year at a CSU school.  He came home after becoming engrossed in smoking a LOT of medical marijuana which was very easy to get on campus. He spent 6 months de-toxifying which also included many periods of psychosis including an evening at psychiatric hospital after a bad episode. This included hearing voices and laughing at seemingly nothing.  When asked what he was laughing about he would say something stupid and not satisfying. He also did not sleep well and spent hours and hours alone in his room. I took him to see a psychologist and two psychiatrists all of whom thought he may be schizophrenic.

After six months of this I finally convinced him to undergo testing with a neuro-psychologist who indicated that he was neither depressed nor psychotic. He did indicate though that there was some significant decrease in his executive functioning capabilities. His advice to me was that there was no medical solution (also, many kids this age won’t take medication anyway on a regular basis). He would have to spend the next few years hoping to regain normal brain functioning. Sure enough, and slowly over the last two years, all of his psychoses dissipated. The laughing at nothing lasted the longest (over a year). He is now doing well. He is not back at school, and frankly I don’t want him back in that atmosphere.  He is in a good job full-time and successfully living on his own and reconnecting with close friends.

My advice to all of you who have children going through this is to first of all do whatever you can to get them off the marijuana and all other drugs. I do not believe the symptoms will ease or go away until your child is clean and able to get it out of the system. The longer they smoke the worse the effects and the longer it will take he or she to recover. Getting evaluated is a great idea but make sure the person evaluating does a lot of testing.  If there is either depression or psychosis, chances are that it is related to the marijuana.

Our story has many more episodes, but I won’t bore you.  Now that it’s edibles that are common, I think it’s worse and I hear the kids are doing it even younger than high school age.

Please don’t write it off, give up, kick your child out of the house.  And please don’t think it’s a life sentence for a mental illness.

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Edibles in Oregon Have Potency Limits

Colorado Petitioners Want THC Limits, Too

When marijuana cookies and candies began to sell in Oregon’s recreational marijuana market on June 2, the THC level for edibles could be no more than 15 milligrams per serving.  (THC is tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive element in marijuana. )

Oregon’s rules also state that dispensaries may sell only one edible per customer per day, and buyers must be at least 21.  Before June 2, only medical marijuana cardholders in Oregon were allowed to buy edibles and extracts.

In Colorado on Thursday, June 16, the Supreme Court cleared the way for a ballot to limit the THC for marijuana sold in that state to 16 percent THC, for all types of marijuana.    Edibles would be limited to single serving packages, also.  The petitioners behind the ballot will have until August 8 to collect 98,000 to get it on the November ballot.  (More information is in a blog article published yesterday.)

Most pot products currently sold in Colorado and Washington exceed 20 percent THC.  Marijuana cookies and candies in Colorado and Washington can have as much as 10 servings, increasing the chance of psychotic reactions. (Photo above is by Krystyna Wentz-Graff/Oregonian)

Oregon’s rules about edibles show the desire to avoid some of the strong, adverse reactions to edibles that happened in Washington and Colorado.   In Colorado, the family of Kristine Kirk has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against an edibles maker and the store who sold her husband the marijuana candy that made him psychotic.   He shot his wife and now awaits trial for her murder.

However, the rules for edibles will change again later this year, as Noelle Crombie explains in the Oregonian.  The complication just proves how difficult regulating marijuana is.  Maureen Dowd explained horrible reaction to a marijuana edible in Colorado made national news, and it seems Oregon doesn’t want to repeat the mistakes of Colorado and Washington.

While Oregon’s THC limits on edibles are lower than elsewhere, Oregon’s THC limits on marijuana extracts seem rather high.  According to rules set up by the state, buyers are allowed one container of up to 1000 milligrams of THC extract.  Extracts are concentrates processed from marijuana and used to make edibles. The extracts also can be smoked or vaporized.   Let’s hope novices won’t be buying the extracts.  The public and children must be protected!   Lotions and topical ointments may now have 6% THC.

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Two Anti-Pot Petitions for the Ballot in Colorado

Could this be the End of Commercial Pot?

According to Associated Press on Thursday, the Supreme Court of Colorado cleared a petition to limit the potency of marijuana products. Now the petitioners are free to gather 98,000 signatures to go on the ballot in November of this year.

Pot would have to include warnings that marijuana carries a risk of “permanent loss of brain abilities.”  Many forms of marijuana that are currently popular such as vape pens and many edibles would become illegal.

Also on Thursday, June 16, the citizens of Pueblo and Pueblo County turned in petitions to opt out of Amendment 64 (the 2012 ballot initiative which legalized and commercialized marijuana sales). The activists goal is to  shut down recreational marijuana businesses in  their county.

Proud signature gatherers turn in petitions on June 16, photos courtesy of Pueblo for Positive Impact
Proud signature gatherers turn in petitions on June 16,  Photos above, Pueblo for Positive Impact.  Top photo is from Fox News.

Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo officials estimated that they submitted more than 9,000 signatures from the county; 5,454 valid signatures are required to place the county ban on the November ballot. Around 4,000 signatures were turned in from the city of Pueblo, 2,000 more than necessary.

The county clerk will have 30 days to decide if there are enough valid signatures to place the measures on the ballot.

Much credit for this work goes to the citizens and volunteer activists with Pueblo for a Positive Impact.