New Jersey is on it's way towards a legal recreational marijuana program, but some supporters aren't fully onboard with the legislation. New Jersey had the first medical marijuana program banning home grows of the plant, and the current legislation for the recreational program would keep that rule intact. This has been frustrating and expensive for patients who are forced to pay high retail prices and taxes on medication they need for relief. The new bill if passed would phase out taxes on medical marijuana and instead gradually increase taxes on recreational marijuana from 7% up to 25% over 5 years. Adults over 21 would be able to purchase and possess 1 ounce of marijuana or 16 ounces of edible products. While legalization has strong support this year, officials think an approval next year is more realistic after the current governor and marijuana opponent Chris Christie is replaced. If passed next year, New Jersey's recreational marijuana program will be legal in 2019 at the earliers. Some showed up at the event a few weeks ago where Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, announced his legislation. Their primary concern is that the current plan limits sales to state-licensed retailers, barring anyone from growing even a small number of plants at home. The bill would allow adults to possess up to one ounce of cannabis, or 16 ounces of products such as edibles, 72 ounces in liquid form or seven grams of concentrate. Taxes would start at 7 percent and gradually rise to 25 percent in five years. “New Jersey medical marijuana program is the first medical program in the country that did not allow home grow, and it happened all over again with this new recreational bill,” Rivera said. The bill would eventually eliminate the current tax on medicinal marijuana. Recreational marijuana would be subject to a tax that would start at 7 percent, then gradually ramp up to 25 percent by the program’s fifth year.
The new Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, confirmed by the Senate in February, has a refreshing take on medical marijuana. This week Shulkin mentioned the evidence for marijuana's medical value and that he would be open to expanding the availability of the drug to include veterans in need. The American Legion is one of several groups who have lobbied to the VA about the many veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injury who could benefit from medical marijuana. If cannabis is rescheduled down to a Schedule II controlled substance, it would open the door for proper medical research and the ability for doctors to prescribe the drug. “There may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful and we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that,” Shulkin told reporters, pointing to states where medical pot is legal. The VA has come under pressure from some influential veterans groups, including the American Legion, to reclassify marijuana to allow federal research into its effect on troops with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries. Under current policy, VA doctors are barred from prescribing medical marijuana to patients, but Congress passed a measure last year allowing them to discuss it in states where it is legal.
In Nevada, the countdown to legal recreational marijuana sales starts now! Recreational sales are currently set to begin on July 1st, when anyone 21 years or older will be able to purchase marijuana from a local Nevada dispensary. Nevada will soon join the several other U.S. states to begin selling recreational marijuana in the last few years, and officials in Nevada hope to take the crown. With nearly 43 million visitors coming through Las Vegas alone, Nevada will surely be a hot spot for legal cannabis. The state currently has 60 medical marijuana dispensaries, with some applying to go full recreational. It has been legal to possess marijuana since Jan 1st, but no one could legally sell the drug until next month. "I think we have the potential of being the new marijuana hub of the country, taking that crown off Colorado and putting it on Nevada, namely Las Vegas," he said. "We have the best nightclubs, the best hotels, the best restaurants, the best shows and now we'll have hopefully the best cannabis experience as well," he said. "I'm really excited to see ... in a year or two how much that [tourism] number grows," Yemenidjian said. "I think it's had a positive effect on Colorado and Washington that don't have the allure that Las Vegas has." As of May 10, Nevada has 60 medical marijuana dispensaries, 88 cultivation facilities, 57 for production and 11 laboratories, according to the Nevada Department of Health. The majority of dispensaries -- 25 -- are in unincorporated Clark County.
Legislators in Wisconsin are hearing the needs of their constituents by beginning the marijuana conversation. The current penalty for possessiing 10 grams or less of marijuana in Wisconsin is a $1,000 fine and six months in jail - not exactly fitting with the growing marijuana acceptance around the U.S. This week a Republican legislator announced his proposal to join several Democrats and their mission to lessen penalties for small marijuana possession down to $100 and remove any possibility of jail. While this proposal will begin the important conversation within the state legislature, it is not expected to pass just yet. Rep. Adam Jarchow said at a Tuesday news conference he realized the need for the proposal after voters in his rural, conservative district urged him to reconsider the state’s approach to marijuana. The measure from Jarchow, Sen. Fred Risser and Reps. Evan Goyke and Jonathan Brostoff would cap the penalty for possessing 10 grams or less of marijuana at $100 and remove the possibility of jail time. The current maximum penalty is $1,000 and six months in jail.
Ohio approved it's medical marijuana program last year, but patients could be waiting until September 2018 for dispensaries to open and receive treatment. For some the wait can be unbearable, especially when a short drive through a neighboring medical marijuana state can yield the relief that so many need. Some Michigan dispensaries are able to sell to out-of-state medical marijuana cardholders, and many in Ohio are taking advantage of this helpful program. For patients in Ohio hoping to purchase the drug before local dispensaries open, they need a recommendation from their doctor as well as an "affirmative defense" letter to be used in court in case they are arrested for possession. If caught with less than 100 grams of marijuana, Ohioans are faced with a max fine of $150, but also the threat of losing their driver's license for six months. This letter of affirmative defense can protect Ohio patients from these unfair penalties, and in at least one case protected a man from being charged with possession as well as having his marijuana returned to him by police. Ohio’s medical law was approved last year and requires that dispensaries must open by September 2018. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office says marijuana possession, medical or otherwise, remains illegal while state agencies write the rules and regulations on how cannabis can be grown and sold. The doctors working for Toledo’s Omni Medical Services are relying on an ambiguous provision in the new law that says doctors can give people “affirmative defense” letters to use in court if cited or arrested for possession ahead of dispensaries opening. Johnson said he and his doctors are interested only in helping people get medicine they need. Hundreds of people have been given recommendations so far, but he wouldn’t offer a more detailed number, he said. “We’re not here to serve people to get high,” Johnson said. “That’s not what we’re about.”
Florida is finally moving forward after the long process of enacting it's new medical marijuana program. Knox Medical, who opened their first medical marijuana dispensary in Gainesville recently, will be opening a new location and Orlando's first dispensary this Friday at 11am. Patients registered with Florida's Compassionate Use Registry will soon be able to purchase low-dose THC medical marijuana products at one of the new state of the art locations around the Florida. Orlando's new dispensary will be located at 1901 N. Orange Ave near White Wolf Cafe in Ivanhoe Village. "Knox Medical is working with Florida’s top architects and designers to create a cohesive dispensary experience that puts the needs and interests of our patients first," say José J. Hidalgo and Bruce Knox, the founders of Knox Medical. "At every stage in this process, from cultivation, to processing, and now to dispensing superior quality medicines at these state-of-the-art facilities, our objective at Knox Medical is to redefine excellence in the medicinal cannabis field at every level. We are privileged to serve our fellow Floridians in most need who will receive compassionate medical care at Knox Medical’s dispensaries."
A new study recently published in Nature Medicine shows us that there is an interesting relationship between the naturally occuring endocannabinoid system and cognitive aging in mice. Researchers found that when animals increase in age the quantity of naturally formed cannabinoids in the brain are reduced. The less activity in the cannabinoid system, the faster the brain ages. But when researchers introduced low-dose treatments of THC to mice they found increased nerve links in the brain, correlating faster thinking and learning, and an altered genetic signature that resemble much younger mice. The studies have so far remained only in mice, but results like these, suggesting that THC treatment can "turn back the molecular clock" are astounding and deserve much more attention in the future. So, if it’s possible to somehow recharge the system, it could be possible to reverse or at least reduce the cognitive slowdown. That’s what the researchers tried with old mice, and the results were remarkable. When they studied the brain tissue and gene activity of the mice after a low-dose THC treatment, they found that the genetic signature no longer looked like that of old mice, but of very young mice. And they found increased nerve links in the brain tissue, which correlates with learning and thinking speed. Again quoting Zimmer, “It looked as though the THC treatment turned back the molecular clock.” Yes, these are mice and not humans, and yes, this sort of research would be difficult to perform on humans for obvious ethical reasons–but it’s still extraordinary. It sounds implausible to think that adding low doses of a chemical from a plant could reverse the brain’s aging process, but that’s exactly what this study shows glimpses of in the brain tissue of mice.
Last year the city of Cleveland backed out on the possibility of growing and selling medical marijuana when Ohio passed it's medical marijuana law, but after seeing other states rack up tax revenue the city is starting to reconsider. Although Cleveland city council does not want medical marijuana dispensaries, they are not as opposed to lifting the ban on cultivating marijuana to be sold elsewhere. Ohio has 24 licenses to give marijuana businesses and Cleveland is rushing to edit their moratorium on the drug in hopes they wont be left out. Officials say there are plenty of large abandoned industrial sites that would make great growing facilities and bring back a number of jobs. Ohio's medical marijuana program is currently estimated to begin September 2018. City Council introduced a bill Monday evening that would eliminate cultivation from the existing moratorium, but leave in place bans on processing of marijuana into medical products and the establishment of dispensaries for selling the marijuana products. "I'm suggesting to do that just to not lock us out of the growing process," City Council President Kevin Kelley told members in a midday caucus meeting. The legislation will be routed through council committees. The intention is to approve it at the June 6 meeting, City Council's last before its summer recess.
Vermont was set to be the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through the legislature until Gov. Phil Scott vetoed the bill earlier this week. Scott is not against marijuana legalization, but wants changes made to the bill like harsher penalties for those caught driving under the influence. With studies showing Vermont among the highest rates of cannabis consumption and several neighboring states already on the road to implementing legalization, it's vital to properly regulate the use of marijuana within the state. The legislature will have a chance to fix the desired parts of the bill during a veto session in June before being presented to the governor again. "We must get this right," said Scott, who is hoping the Legislature can make the fixes during a veto session in late June. Scott has said he's not philosophically opposed to marijuana legalization but has concerns about public safety, children's health and how to measure impaired drivers. "We are all concerned about youth safety and roadside safety," said Laura Subin, director of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana. "We hope we can work with the governor and the legislature to come up with a proposal that reflects those priorities."
While whole-plant cannabis remains federally illegal, GW pharmaceuticals is working to gain FDA approval for a cannabis based drug, Epidiolex. Derived from cannabidiol (CBD), the drug contains no THC, the compound in marijuana that gets the user high. GW Pharma has now released two studies for Epidiolex targeting specific types of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome. Both studies showed great promise in reducing seizures in patients by over 40% with some patients even having their seizures halted entirely. The success of these studies allows GW pharma to apply for a streamlined approval process and if approved, Epidiolex would become the first FDA approved drug containing cannabidiol. Because drugmaker GW Pharma was able to show that the product addresses a critical need, it was able to apply for a designation that could speed up the approval process. The company still faces some hurdles, though — the FDA has not yet approved any applications to sell marijuana for a health condition, and hasn't given the green light to any drugs containing cannabidiol. The second trial, the results of which were published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at 120 children with Dravet syndrome. Half were given the drug and half received a placebo. Forty-three percent of participants given the drug saw their seizures reduced by half, and 5% stopped having seizures entirely. By comparison, the seizure rate in the group given a placebo barely budged.
Earlier this month the Nevada Tax Commision finalized regulations for licensing recreational marijuana businesses, which means that the program can now begin within the next two months. Licenses can be distributed to dispensers and growers in Nevada starting July 1, but some cities, like Henderson, will see delays due to the moratorium their city council still has in place. Regulations for recreational licensing were adopted from the similar medical marijuana program already in place, and lawmakers are proud of the streamlined process used to get this new program up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible. “Its great for the state. It’s great for the industry. I think its great for everybody,” said Armen Yemenidjian, owner of Essence Cannabis dispensaries. “This is a display in how Nevada gets things done.” Henderson could be the outlier, however. The city council implemented a 6-month moratorium on any marijuana licenses in February, meaning recreational sales by the five dispensaries in the city cannot happen until at least August.
The American Legion is the nation's largest veterans' organization and after meeting with Congress about their concerns over medical marijuana's availability for veterans, they have now chosen to seek out a meeting with President Trump. PTSD is a large concern for The American Legion, and while most medical marijuana states currently allow patients with PTSD access to the drug, veterans are singled out as ineligible through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Roughly 6.8% of Americans suffer from PTSD, but a significantly larger portion of veterans, 30% of Vietnam vets, 12% of Gulf War vets, and 14% of Iraq/Afghanistan vets, suffer from PTSD and should be allowed to access treatment that has proven effective. Officials from The American Legion hope that President Trump will reschedule cannabis in the Controlled Substances Act and remove the barrier from federal research, opening the door for a huge amount of veterans to receive treatment they deserve. The nation’s largest veterans’ group has requested a meeting at the White House to discuss rescheduling marijuana’s status as a federally controlled substance so medical researchers may legally study its potential to help vets suffering from conditions including traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. America Legion is looking for face time with the Trump administration “as we seek support from the president to clear the way for clinical research in the cutting edge areas of cannabinoid receptor research,” the organization wrote in a letter sent to the White House last month and recently shared with the media. Rescheduling cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act would remove restrictions limiting federally-funded researchers from studying its possible benefits and potentially reverse the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ existing anti-pot stance, according to the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans’ group at about 2.4 million members.