Newly Introduced Legislation Would End Federal Pot Prohibition

In Trump’s (and Jeff Sessions’) new America, rational marijuana policy isn’t something we thought we would see. And while we still may not see it, members of the House and Senate are doing what they can to change that.

On Thursday, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Jared Polis introduced a bill that would remove the DEA’s power over marijuana by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act. This means that the right to create and enforce laws around marijuana would be turned over to state governments.

Today, more than one fifth of the country lives in states that allow recreational marijuana, and recent polls have found that 59 percent of the country favors legalization.

“If we are truly going to move our nation towards sensible marijuana policies, the removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act is paramount,” said Justin Strekal, political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “Annually, 600,000 Americans are arrested for nothing more than the possession of small amounts of marijuana and now is the time for Congress to once and for all end put an end to the national embarrassment that is cannabis prohibition.”

“Passing this legislation would end the current conflict between state and federal laws and allow the states to implement more sensible and humane marijuana policies, free from the threat of federal incursion,” he added.

The bills are pieces of a three-part legislation package proposed by Wyden and Blumenauer, both representing Oregon, called the Path to Marijuana Reform.

According to VICE, “one deals specifically with tax issues related to the marijuana industry; another includes a variety of far-reaching reforms, such as easing restrictions on banking and medical research; and the third calls for descheduling marijuana, which would treat the drug like alcohol or tobacco under federal law.”

That being said, it’s difficult to know what kind of progress the bills will make in the Republican-majority Congress, particularly when the White House and the attorney general have come out against states’ rights to legalize the leaf.

Only time will tell if the bills can make it through, but in the meantime, call your congressmen and women to let them know that you support the Path to Marijuana Reform.

The Path to Marijuana Reform can be read in its entirety here.

Atlanta Is the Latest Southern City to Push for Pot Decriminalization

Startups, independent bookstores, popping nightlife—Atlanta is cool. Creatives and entrepreneurs and anyone else seeking decent wages and legitimate culture in a livable climate have been drawn to Atlanta for several years now, long enough for Atlanta to be so cool that it’s just about over.

When cities become meccas for transplants from around the country (or beyond), the destination city inevitably changes. The newcomers bring their habits and their mores with them. In the case of Atlanta—which has its share of homegrown musicians and artists, but is also seeing an influx of creative-types from Hollywood and other places where people expect marijuana to be treated not like it’s toxic—this includes, at last, liberalized drug policy.

As the Atlanta Journal Constitution is reporting, the Atlanta City Council is considering a proposal to decriminalize marijuana possession. Like almost everywhere else in the South, under Georgia law, simply having a joint or blunt in your pocket in Atlanta is grounds for an arrest and nearly everybody arrested for the “crime” is black.

Simple possession is a misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail—unless it’s hash or concentrates, or unless the joint strays within 1,000 feet of a school, in which case, it’s a felony.

As usual, the vast, vast majority—92 percent, in this case—of people arrested and punished for pot possession are black, despite no evidence to suggest that white people are using the drug any less. (In fact, considering black people as a whole tend to view marijuana less favorably than whites, a trend that developed concurrently with black people getting thrown into jail at a disproportionate rate, it’s safe to assume that white people are more likely to use cannabis.)

“This is one of many hang ups that get people stuck in our jails,” said City Council member Kwanza Hall, who’s behind the proposal.

On April 17, the council will vote on lowering the penalty for simple possession of limited amounts of marijuana to a $75 ticket. This approach is similar to the ones seen in New Orleans, where police have had the discretion to charge possession with a court summons since 2010, and in Nashville and Memphis—where efforts to decriminalize marijuana, approved at the local level, were upended by meddling state lawmakers.

The effort in Atlanta seems likely to pass, because it’s a political winner.

Both Hall and Georgia state Sen. Vincent Fort, who is also pushing to decriminalize marijuana, are candidates for Atlanta mayor. Kasim Reed, the current mayor, has yet to opine on the effort, ahead of a planned “roundtable discussion” with “judges and police”—which is a sign of how popular of an idea decriminalization is. One of the proposal’s chief critics, council member Michael Julian Bond, agrees with the proposal in principle—his main issue, the newspaper reported, is the size of the fine.

Whether outside lawmakers will then choose to nullify what Atlanta does, as we saw in Tennessee, remains to be seen.

Keep in mind, Georgia is the state that sent Tom Price to Congress, so anything is possible—including Atlanta reclaiming some of its bona fide cool factor by taking the first step on the long road to marijuana legalization.

Is weed legal in Georgia? Check the latest up-to-date news about weed legality in Georgia.

The Genes of Terpenes: Scientists Discover Pot’s Smell Predictor

By now, most even casual consumers of marijuana are familiar with “terpenes,” the compounds found in the essential oils of plants, responsible for a plant’s distinctive taste and aroma—and, with cannabis, which also play a role in how the plant affects the mind and body.

But according to a pair of scientists from the University of British Columbia, to find which terpenes a plant will produce, to determine if a cannabis plant will smell like skunk, funk or sweet apple pie, you can look at the plant’s genes.

Let us attempt to explain.

Terpenes are prized not only because they have profound impact on the humans who consume them, but because they’re not predictable. Similar or identical strains of cannabis will produce different levels of terpenes. (And as anyone who’s waded into cannabis genetics can tell you, “identical” strains, i.e. two varieties of Blue Dream, will have very different genetic makeups.) We have a fine idea of what terpenes are and what they do, but less of a handle on how to predict with precision what terpenes a finished product will have, and why.

“Concentrations and ratios of cannabinoids are relatively predictable for different strains,” the researchers wrote, “but terpene profiles are often unknown or unpredictable.”

We have a better idea now.

As reported in an article published in the journal Plos One on Wednesday, after studying both the genetic makeup and the terpene count of a variety of hemp called “Finola” and in a cut of Purple Kush, researchers Judith K. Booth, Jonathan E. Page and Jörg Bohlmann believe they’ve identified as many as 30 genes that may predict how a plant produces and synthesizes terpenes.

As the Vancouver Sun reported, the scientists looked at the genomes of cannabis plants to identify genes associated with resulting terpenes, or which genes lead to “terpene biosynthesis,” as they wrote. They believe they’ve found a “cannabis terpene synthases gene family”—that is, a set of genetic markers that determine how a plant produces terpenes—associated with terpenes including mycrene and limoene, the “fruity” and “piny” flavors found in many strains of popular cannabis, including Cookies, GG#4 and O.G. Kush.

What to do with this information, and why should you care?

Consumers can look forward to more and better terpy products, for one. Armed with this information, plant scientists can breed a plant to produce terpenes, or at least know what starting-off seed material will produce an aromatic product.

This is also a major step forward in cannabis genetics.

For a long time, plant breeding was focused on traits that would predict levels of THC and CBD. Now, we know terpenes play a role, along with cannabinoids, in determining a plant’s effect.

After this first step towards predicting a plant’s terpene count, someday, we may be able to expect marijuana producers to make available finely-tuned cannabis, for precisely the effect we’re seeking.

Thanks, science.

Canadian Pharmacy Chain Offers Employees Medical Marijuana Insurance

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Although medical marijuana is not traditionally covered under company-paid health insurance programs, the largest pharmacy chain in Canada has changed this by allowing thousands of workers to have access to medical cannabis under the company’s benefits package.

According to a report from The Star, Loblaw Companies Limited and Shoppers Drug Mart recently announced medical cannabis coverage as part of its employee health insurance.

The company stated that, effective immediately, insurance provider Manulife will cover the herb for patients suffering from “spasticity and neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis and nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy for cancer patients,” up to $1,500 per year.

While the medical marijuana plan does not cover every qualified condition, the company says it will consider adding additional ailments as more clinical evidence becomes available.

Reports show around 45,000 employees will be eligible to take advantage of the new program. For those who use it, they will be required to pay for their marijuana out of pocket and then submit a claim for reimbursement. That’s strictly because cannabis does not yet have a Drug Identification Number, which has forced the insurer to do some finagling to provide this coverage.

It is no surprise that Shoppers is leading the way when it comes to cannabis medicine. Just last year, the company applied to become of the nation’s cannabis producers, intent on bringing a generic form of medical marijuana branded with the Shopper’s name to the company’s 1,300 pharmacies.

The company said its vision is to keep all medicine in the hands of professionals.

“Pharmacists are medication experts and play a significant role in the prescribing and monitoring of medication to ensure safe and optimal use,” Tammy Smitham, a company spokesperson, said in an interview with Globe & Mail. “We believe that dispensing medical marijuana through pharmacy, like other medications, is the safest option.”

It was announced earlier this week that Canadian liberals plan to legalize marijuana for recreational use before July 2018. It is not yet known exactly how the rise of a fully legal pot market will impact the country’s medical marijuana sector. Once marijuana becomes a fully legal product that can be purchased in retail shops without a prescription, it is conceivable that the idea of accessing the herb through the government’s medical marijuana program could eventually cease to be a relevant part of the national cannabis trade.

Indiana Representatives Passed Legislation Allowing Parents to Give Epileptic Children CBD Oil

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A bill that would make it easier for Indiana parents to get cannabidiol treatments for their children with epilepsy will soon come up for a vote in the state Senate. According to Nuvo, House Bill 1148 just cleared the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee by a 7-2 vote, despite objections from state prosecutors.

Brandy Barrett, an Indiana resident who’s been treating her epileptic son with CBD, testified before the committee about the drug’s effectiveness. “No parent like myself wants to break the law but when push comes to shove we will do what we need to do to take care of our children,” she said. Barrett has been using CBD to treat her son for three years, and has seen an 80% reduction in seizures. She told the committee that if Indiana authorities force her to stop using CBD, she “would probably look at moving to a different state.”

Opponents of the bill point to the 0.3 percent THC that’s still present in the CBD oils. Under Indiana law, even this tiny percentage of THC is still illegal. David Powell and Dan Miller, members of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, claimed that CBD oil should remain illegal because even minuscule amounts of THC can accumulate in the body over time. Miller argued that authorities giving a suspect a drug test may be unable to determine whether the individual was using legal CBD or illegally smoking marijuana.

Pharmacist Christina Gerber, who also has an epileptic son, also testified before the committee. “Nothing is going to help everybody, but this may be the push that a lot of patients, including my son, need to go from having 50 seizures a day to about five,” she said. “As a parent, this is a no brainer. This is an easy scenario for me. If I had access to CBD oil I would use it.”

Now that it has passed the committee, the bill will move to the full Indiana Senate for another vote, before hopefully making its way to the desk of Governor Eric Holcomb.

The Scientist Who Discovered THC Has Never Smoked Weed

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86 year-old Raphael Mechoulam is known as the “father of marijuana research.” In the 1960’s the college professor headed up cannabis research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and discovered the compounds THC and CBD. But while Mechoulam was one of the first people to discover the incredible importance of marijuana, he has gone his whole life without ever smoking, eating, vaping or using cannabis in any form or fashion.

In an interview with Culture magazine, Mechoulam admitted that his lifelong research and dedication to cannabis has never lead the scientist to twist up a doobie or pack a bong.

“I have never used it. First of all, I am still interested but as I did research and we had official supply of cannabis, obviously if we had used it for non-scientific reasons if people had come to know about it that would have stopped our work. Basically, neither I nor my students were interested.”

Mechoulam also told reporters about the days before cannabis was popular and how we was able to – semi-illegally – obtain the hashish that lead to the groundbreaking discovery of THC.

“I went to the administrative head of my institute and asked him whether he had a contact with the police and he said, ‘Sure, no problem.’ He called the number two person at the police at that time. They had been in the army together or something of that sort. From the other side I could hear him saying, ‘Is he reliable?’ And the head of the institute said, ‘Of course he’s reliable.’ So he invited me over to the police, and I took five kilos of hashish.” Mechoulam told Culture. “It broke the laws. It turned out I was not allowed to have it, and he was not allowed to give it to me. It was the Ministry of Health that should have permitted it, but in a small country, I went to the Ministry of Health, and I apologized, and any time I needed more hashish I went to the Ministry of Health and had no problems.”

Despite his smoking abstinence, Mechoulam hasn’t slowed down his participation in the ever-expanding world of Israeli cannabis. Even into his retirement, the scientist still consults with Israel’s Ministry of Health and helped push the government agency to approve the country’s nationwide medical marijuana program.

Mechoulam continues to work with the Ministry of Health to better serve Israel’s medical marijuana patients, but it still doesn’t appear that the groundbreaking chemist will be sparking up anytime soon.