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Bill to End War on Drugs Full of Potential Pro-Pot Policies

Bill to End War on Drugs Full of Potential Pro-Pot Policies

For most, there is little doubt that the War on Drugs is an indisputable failure. It has taken an excessive amount of money, manpower, and lives with little to show for it besides one of the worst drug epidemics in the history of the country. Time has proven these policies to be ineffective and costly, so where do we go from here?

Perspective in our nation changes and the stigma attached to addiction is now being to be confronted. Along with it all comes waves of new proposals on how America’s drug policies can evolve. Which is the right way is still unclear.

Right now, while many are confused if Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration will be actively cracking down on marijuana in states with legalization laws, there are others on the federal level that are actively pushing in the opposite direction. Part of a new bill currently in the House is trying to do even more to end the War on Drugs, by directly pushing pro-pot politics.

The Marijuana Justice Act

Last August, Democratic Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey introduced the “Marijuana Justice Act of 2017”. He was joined by Democratic Representative Barbara Lee from California in bringing the reform legislation to both chambers of Congress. Historically, this was the first time a companion legislation was introduced in both chambers to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). According to early reports, as a companion to Booker’s S. 1689 is the companion bill HR 4815. These efforts are to:

  1. Remove marijuana from CSA
  2. Incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests
  3. Expunge federal convictions specific to marijuana possession
  4. Allow individuals currently in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition for resentencing
  5. Create community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the War on Drugs

Currently, marijuana is in the same federal category as drugs like:

Even those who do not advocate for marijuana legalization at least see the fault in its scheduling. Trey Growdy, the Republican Representative from South Carolina has repeatedly questioned why marijuana is considered a schedule 1 drug. This schedule actually puts it above Cocaine and methamphetamines.

One of the big pieces of the bill is also that bit about expunging convictions. Justin Strekal, political director for NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) notes that this is “the first piece of legislation that addresses expungement issues,” to clean up former criminal records for cannabis use.

Now, a new version of the bill has been introduced to the House just last week. The goal is described as a campaign against the current federal drug policy and the failed War on Drugs.

Speaking with Sponsors of Bill

Last year, after introducing his version of the bill, Senator Cory Booker stated,

“Our country’s drug laws are badly broken and need to be fixed.”

“They don’t make our communities any safer—instead they divert critical resources from fighting violent crimes, tear families apart, unfairly impact low-income communities and communities of color, and waste billions in taxpayer dollars each year.”

Booker also believes getting rid of old pot-policies of the War on Drugs would help to bolster the economy. He states,

“It’s estimated that legal cannabis in the U.S. would create $40 billion in revenue and nearly a million jobs.”

“But it’s about more than that $40 billion —it’s about equality, and getting rid of the legal past that is stifling individuals’ opportunity and their future.”

One co-sponsor for the bill is Representative Ro Khanna. He says that revenue from taxes on marijuana would then be allocated to funding the programs to reinvest in communities that were harmed by the anti-pot policies of the War on Drugs.

Representative Barbara Lee says,

“This legislation will end this destructive War on Drugs.”

This new bill to attack the War on Drugs also has the support of the Drug Policy Alliance. Kassandra Frederique, the New York States Director for the Drug Policy Alliance, states,

“This bill makes clear to state and local elected officials that they cannot move forward beyond prohibition without taking a serious look at the historical and ongoing impacts of drug war policies.”

Supporters of the bill continue to emphasize that this isn’t just about ending pot prohibition. They say it is also about putting forth resources to help communities recover.

Why are We Talking About This?

As a provider of innovative holistic treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, we pay attention to the way drug policy changes because we know how it impacts communities around the country. In order to provide help to those who need it, we have to be talking about these changes. If drug policies shift, we must talk about how they can affect those who struggle with substance use disorder.

It does not matter if a drug is an illicit black-market substance, or a popular legalized product, substance abuse and addiction are still possible. If marijuana reform is going to continue to grow, it is also our responsibility to bring attention to the possible risks and side effects for some who use marijuana.

If pro-pot politics are going to put marijuana in the mainstream, there should also be an effort to promote substance abuse treatment options. Looking back, if the War on Drugs taught us anything, it is that there should be a strong focus on providing treatment, not punishment. If we want to make things better, we have to offer every opportunity to help those who need it most.

Marijuana abuse can have a noticeable impact on some people’s lives, and often times it is accompanied by another form of substance abuse. Acknowledging the influence of drugs in your life and knowing when to get help can make the recovery process a life-changing journey. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

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Should Marijuana Get Same State-to-State Treatment as Guns?

Should Marijuana Get Same State-to-State Treatment as Guns?

You may remember last week we talked about how some states are pushing to take gun rights away from people prescribed medical marijuana. Of course, this topic has sparked a lot of conversation on how medical marijuana should be addressed. But a lot of the discussion has been on how 2nd amendment rights should be protected. The debate ranges from push-back for individual states, to argue that federal law still considers marijuana a schedule 1 drug, meaning people who use the drug are not allowed to own or possess firearms.

Well, since we have already jumped into the discussion comparing gun rights and medical marijuana, we might as well talk about another interesting story brought about by a Democratic congressman from California.

Concealed Carry Reciprocity

The whole conversation starts with the introduction of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which is currently being pushed by Republican lawmakers this week. This new piece of legislation would mandate that if someone is able to receive a concealed carry permit for a firearm in one state, that all other states would be required to honor that concealed carry permit. This means even if your state has much more strict requirements for concealing a gun, someone from a state with much more relaxed requirements is still allowed to travel into your state with a concealed weapon.

Now to be clear, there are many states that already honor concealed carry reciprocity. For example, if I were to get my concealed carry permit in my home state of Ohio, the vast majority of states would allow me to carry a concealed weapon.

Also, in the Buckeye State, they actually recognized the concealed carry permits of every other state already.

But Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna argues that it goes against the very idea of state’s rights and federalism. He argues that the Republican Party, which is often the champion for state’s rights, is forgetting that each state should be able to determine what laws are best for their own citizens and that this legislation will essentially federalize concealed carry permits.

The reason we wanted to talk about this is due to the argument used by Congressman Ro Khanna using marijuana to try and make his point.

Marijuana Reciprocity

Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents Silicon Valley area, made a video that argues that if the GOP wants to move forward with making concealed carry permits a national movement, then the same protections should be required by all states to honor marijuana laws.

In the clip posted to Twitter on Wednesday, Khanna states:

“If one state allows the legalization of marijuana, does that mean every state needs to allow the legalization of marijuana?”

Going off of Khanna’s comparison, applying the logic of the H.R. 38 Concealed Carry Reciprocity policy to marijuana would mean someone in California who received a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana for anxiety should be able to legally use marijuana in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania has more strict restrictions on their medical marijuana laws, with anxiety not being included as a qualifying medical condition.

While Khanna’s comparison is more tongue-in-cheek as part of his opposition to the H.R. 38 bill, it does present an interesting question; should medical marijuana be recognized with reciprocity? One should remember that gun ownership is an actual constitutional right, versus cannabis decriminalization being a recent movement.

Then again, does it make sense to argue “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” in a context like this? This brings us back to the argument of whether or not the federal government should be putting more effort into federal law against marijuana, or if the states have more a right to decide if they will allow cannabis for medical or recreational purposes.

It is still an interesting argument to make. Should states compare these two concepts in the debate on policy?

Marijuana Abuse

Marijuana reform remains a controversial topic. However, the legal status of any medication does not take away from the dangers of substance abuse. Plenty of prescription medications have a high risk of abuse and addiction, and marijuana abuse can be harmful to an individual’s life.

People often mistake marijuana for having no addictive properties. This misconception is because most people consider cannabis a ‘soft drug’ when compared to other ‘hard drugs’ such as crack-cocaine or heroin. While the chemical hooks may not be as drastic or apparent, the truth is that habitual use of any chemical can result in developing tolerance, which can also lead to withdrawal. Symptoms most commonly associated with marijuana withdrawal include:

  • Insomnia, nightmares, vivid dreams, using dreams
  • Drug craving
  • Mood swings
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of concentration
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss and weight gain
  • Digestion problems
  • Nausea
  • Night sweats
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Shakiness and dizziness

If you are struggling with cannabis abuse, do not hesitate to get help today. Often time’s people who use one substance develop a habit of abuse with many others.

Be careful not to underestimate the substances you are using. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

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Legal Marijuana Coming to New Jersey and Virginia?

Legal Marijuana Coming to New Jersey and Virginia?

Author: Justin Mckibben

The elections held this past Tuesday may not have directly addressed the status of marijuana, but voters in multiple states did elect officials who are adamant about making legal marijuana more available.

Next Year in New Jersey

One of those states is New Jersey, who’s outgoing governor is Chris Christie, chairman of the White House commission on opioids.

Last week Democrat Phil Murphy, who made legal marijuana one of the cornerstones of his campaign, won the state over. This creates a radical change for the state. For years Chris Christie has blocked attempts to legalize cannabis, and even maintains his opposition to it while fighting to help the country get a grip on the opioid epidemic.

Phil Murphy has been pretty open about his support for marijuana legalization. According to Forbes, Murphy even talked about it during his primary night victory speech saying,

“The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,”

“And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”

Apparently, it isn’t just Murphy in the state that is looking forward to pushing this legislation along. The Democratically-controlled state Senate is expecting to bring up legal marijuana as early as next year. In regards to the topic, earlier this year Senate President Stephen Sweeney said,

“We are going to have a new governor in January 2018. As soon as the governor gets situated we are all here and we intend to move quickly on it.”

Voters in Virginia

Voters in the Commonwealth of Virginia also elected an official who advocates for loosening restrictions on marijuana. Current lieutenant governor Ralph Northam is in favor of decriminalizing marijuana possession. While it may not be as liberal a stance as Murphy, it is still a big step in a lot of people’s minds. Northam writes,

“We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana. African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia.”

But it isn’t just about the individuals. Northam also points out the resources going to this issue. He has written to the Virginia State Crime Commission as part of its review of the effects of marijuana decriminalization.

“Virginia spends $67 million on marijuana enforcement—enough to open up another 13,000 pre-K spots for children,”

Again, not that he is pushing for complete legalization, but to stop stiff penalties for those with small amounts of marijuana. Northam also advocates for research into the medicinal uses of marijuana. According to Richmond Times-Dispatch, he has stated,

“As a doctor, I like to make the point to people, over 100 of the medicines that we use on a daily basis come from plants,” he said in an interview Monday. “So I think we need to be open-minded about using marijuana for medical purposes.”

He isn’t alone in Virginia either. Even the Republican state Senate leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. questioned whether or not small amounts of marijuana should remain a crime.

Marijuana in More Areas

But it isn’t just these two offices that indicate there may be more change coming for marijuana policy. In other areas around the country, there are other notable shifts that may dramatically impact marijuana policy.

  • Athens, Ohio

77% of voters in the college town eliminated fines and court costs for possessing or growing up to 200 grams of marijuana.

  • Wayne County, Michigan

In an area that includes Detroit, voters now allow cannabis businesses to operate in more areas and to stay open longer. Michigan is expected to have a marijuana legalization bill on the 2018 ballot.

  • Philadelphia

Lawrence Krasner won the election for District Attorney. Krasner has been outspoken about the benefits of marijuana reform. According to Krasner,

“One of the things we see in other jurisdictions is that, where marijuana is readily available, there’s a 25% reduction in opiate/opioid overdose deaths.”

“So if Philadelphia is looking at 500 opiate/opioid overdose deaths a year, a district attorney, by choosing not to enforce against marijuana usage, can potentially save 125 lives. That’s what a district attorney should exercise his or her discretion to do.”

It seems between lightening the punishments for possession, expanding programs for legal marijuana, and electing officials that will advocate for its use, marijuana may have already seen some real change this November.

What to Remember about Legal Marijuana

It is important to note for anyone who has a history of substance use disorder that the legal status of a substance does not make it safer. You could argue that marijuana is much safer than opioids like prescription drugs or heroin. While marijuana is not as lethal concerning overdose deaths, it still should not ignore the risks.

Marijuana reform has the potential for some positive and negative outcomes. Ultimately voters will have to consider weighing the pros and cons of reform. Either way, it is important to remember that any substance, legal or not, can be addictive. While marijuana may become more accepted on a legal level, it is still unhealthy to abuse this drug. If you find yourself abusing this or any drug it is very important that you seek safe and effective treatment resources.

Because drug abuse is always destructive, marijuana abuse is no exception. If you or someone you love are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please seek help. Regardless of whether a drug is legalized or not, losing control of your use can lead to something much worse. We want to help. You are not alone. Call toll-free now. 

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California says NO to Pot Delivering Drones

California says NO to Pot Delivering Drones

Californians expecting to get their marijuana delivered via drone should not hold their breath. A new set of regulations will make it harder for California businesses who try to deliver pot in unique ways.

The legalization of marijuana has raised a host of controversy. For one, the question of who has the right to distribute pot is already a complex issue. However, now there is the question of how these products get delivered.

Pot Drones? Should they be allowed?

California legislators are hoping to get these questions answered before issuing dispensary licenses next year. They came together this month to lay down the rules. Ultimately, it was decided that marijuana could NOT be delivered by drones.

The decision was part of the Commercial Cannabis Business Licensing Program Regulations released by the state.

“Transportation may not be done by aircraft, watercraft, rail, drones, human-powered vehicles, or unmanned vehicles,” the regulations read, according to Ars Technica.

While deliveries will be allowed, they must adhere to the following guidelines:

Deliveries may be made only in person by enclosed motor vehicle. Cannabis goods may not be visible to the public during deliveries. Cannabis goods may not be left in an unattended motor vehicle unless the vehicle has an active alarm system. Vehicles used for delivery must have a dedicated, active GPS device that enables the dispensary to identify the geographic location of the vehicle during delivery.”

The news will be a major disappointment to the handful of businesses in California who already promised future pot deliveries by drone. One company, MDelivers, said the opportunity to deliver marijuana via drone was “unmistakable.”

Nevertheless, the company CEO did not count on lawmakers forbidding drone deliveries:

After navigating the complexities of medical marijuana permitting, the state and FAA licensing process was actually pretty simple. Nobody can jump in at the 11th hour and rewrite the laws of aerodynamics,” Chris Boudreau, CEO and founder of MDelivers said in a blog post before the regulations were announced.

With the new policies in place, there is no telling how entrepreneurs will get marijuana to their customers. Even if drones are off the table, there are a variety of other new, interesting methods being considered.

We may see a vending machine attached to a self-driving car before we see a drone,” Marshall Hayner, CEO of Trees Delivery, told Mashable.

As California prepares to expand its cannabis market, there continues to be challenges among those against marijuana legalization, especially when it comes to the products crossing state lines illegally. This has already been a major concern for states where port had been legal for recreational use such as Colorado and Oregon.

Surrounding states are trying to address the marijuana diversion issue by requiring pot businesses to track their product from “seed to store.” Time will tell how these sorts of issues will be regulated.

Furthermore, there remains to be conflicting ideologies on whether or not marijuana use is beneficials. While there has been proven benefits of marijuana use, there are also negative effects of marijuana use. Like any drug, marijuana has the potential to be abused.

As more and more states legalize marijuana, logistical challenges remain such as how the products can be delivered. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, where it’s still classified as a controlled substance. This results in a variety of challenges in states like Colorado where recreational marijuana is legal.

The federal government requires that Colorado and any state that legalizes marijuana work together to prevent:

  • Distribution of marijuana to minors.
  • Transporting marijuana from states where it’s legal to other states.
  • Growing marijuana on public lands.
  • Marijuana possession or use on federal property.
  • Other criminal activity or violence associated with the sale of marijuana.

It is important to remember that like any drug, marijuana has the potential to be abused. Do not feel shame for feeling out of control of your marijuana use. Stigma should not prevent you from seeking treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please reach out today. Do not wait. Call toll-free now.

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Trump Administration May Take Action against Legal Marijuana States

Trump Administration May Take Action against Legal Marijuana States

Author: Justin Mckibben

It is no secret that President Trump has not been exactly consistent with his views of drugs, specifically legalized marijuana. During the course of the campaign for President he flip-flopped a lot on whether or not he would support or oppose legalization. While a wave of marijuana reforms have continued to blossom in several states, it seems those inconsistencies are again cropping up. Now one can only guess what is going to come of the Trump administration and their strategy on marijuana.

Just this Thursday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer came to speak on behalf of the Trump administration. Here he suggested the federal government may soon crack down on recreational marijuana use across the country. Not just as part of the “law-and-order” stance of the plan for the Trump administration, but even in states that have already legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Timeline on Trump’s Back and Forth

So just to give us an idea of how this back and forth goes, we will set a timeline of notable changes in Trump’s attitude toward marijuana.

  • The 90s

Back in the early 90s Donald Trump actually stated that he believed the United States should legalize all drugs and use the funds from sales to educate people on the dangers of drug use. During an interview he stated:

“We’re losing badly the war on drugs,” he said. “You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.”

  • 2016

Then, during the campaign of 2016 the attitude began to slip and slide at all sides of the spectrum. In June he stated he was adamantly opposed to legalization of marijuana. He still kind-of-sort-of supported medical marijuana at the time. His comments during the June CPAC Conference:

“I say it’s bad. Medical marijuana is another thing, but I think it’s bad, and I feel strongly about it,”

These comments come after a period in which he had stated he was a long-time supporter of marijuana for medical purposes.

  • 2016… Again

During the same campaign, Trump was at a rally outside a casino in Reno, Nevada where he stated the government should use Colorado as a “litmus test” to properly assess the dangers of recreational marijuana. So he went from strongly opposing legalized marijuana, to supporting marijuana reforms, pending further review.

  • 2016… Another One

Later, the soon-to-be-President Trump had stated on the campaign trail he would only support marijuana legalization at the state-by-state level, essentially affirming he would allow the states to make up their own mind about how to handle marijuana reform.

  • This Week

Spicer’s comments during this week’s White House press briefing came in response to a question from a local Arkansas reporter. Spicer was asked whether President Donald Trump was OK with Arkansas’ medical marijuana law, which recently approved its regulations by the state’s Medical Marijuana Commission.

Sean Spicer now tells reporters that Trump does approve of medical marijuana use, which could help provide relief to the chronically ill. However, he is now more firmly opposed to recreational use. The notable addition to this stance is when Spicer says,

“There is still a federal law that we need to abide by … when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature,”

It is notable because now not only has President Trump done a more deliberate shift to stand against recreational use, but now the concept of “state-by-state level” seems to be out the window too. Many are outraged, Marijuana Majority founder Tom Angell saying:

“On the campaign trail, President Trump clearly and repeatedly pledged that he would leave decisions on cannabis policy to the states.”

Because the federal government still considers marijuana an illegal drug, these comments indicate they plan on enforcing those rules regardless of any state’s decision.

Obama Era on Marijuana

These changes in policy are almost the exact opposite of every move made by the previous administration to combat the negative impacts of the failed War on Drugs.

Back in 2014 U.S. Congress approved legislation preventing the DEA from carrying out any raids, arrest, or prosecutions of patients using medical marijuana. It blocked law enforcement agencies under the Justice Department from consuming federal dollars in efforts to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized the use of medicinal marijuana. Under former President Barack Obama, the Department of Justice did not pursue action against states that legalized recreational marijuana use, including:

  • Alaska
  • Colorado
  • Massachusetts
  • Oregon
  • Washington

In fact, the field of politics was shifting back in 2015 when a bipartisan effort was put forth in Congress to block the DEA from using federal funding for aggressively pursuing marijuana in the states where it was legalized.

Trump Administration “Taking Action”

Yet, this week Sean Spicer suggested the Trump administration and the Justice Department will no longer turn a blind eye to those states. In fact, he states it will be “taking action” against these states. Contradicting all the talk of states’ rights and rolling back federal enforcement to attack states who have their own legislations in place.

Even worse, these comments are completely contradicting a stance Sean Spicer announced on a different issue.

Earlier in the briefing, Spicer said federal guidance telling states to allow transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity was a violation of states’ rights. In fact, Spicer had literally just moments before said:

“If a state wants to pass a law or a rule, or if an organization wants to do something in compliance with a state rule, that’s their right,” Spicer said about transgender bathroom use. “But it shouldn’t be the federal government getting in the way of this.”

To recap, the Trump administration is telling us transgender rights should be left up to the states to decide, but those same “states’ rights” do not apply to recreational marijuana use, despite the fact these states have already done their due diligence through democratic process to make these choices.

Opinion

While Sean Spicer and the Trump administration don’t seem to want to compare those two subjects, Spicer is happy to relate it to another; the opiate epidemic. During the briefing the press secretary actually suggested there was some relation between states’ decisions to legalize marijuana to the opioid crisis.

The question is how is the Trump administration going to take action? Will the DEA raid dispensaries and shut down businesses and imprison business owners who are working in accordance to their state law? Will they be refusing funding to these states or providing some other form of punishment?

The Trump administration is still willing to support medical marijuana, so the people who it helps most may still be OK.

As an advocate for recovery, and as a recovering drug addict, I understand people want to feel the government is doing something to stop the rising rates of addiction. I just think there is a better place to start; education and treatment.

When it comes to the drug problem in America though, we have to address this issue rationally. The legal status of a drug does not make it any less dangerous to those who struggle with addiction. Alcohol and prescription drugs can prove that any day of the week. If we are really focused on trying to fix the problem, how about we start with those industries? The answer to the opiate crisis or general drug problem is probably more education, prevention, treatment and support.

On one hand, one could say it is good that Trump is malleable in his views so he can develop them overtime with more knowledge and reasoning. What do you think? Either way, abusing any substance is a serious issue, whether it is legal or not. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

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