April 2014 NORML Canada Newsletter
Maryland Decriminalization and Medical Marijuana Bills Signed into Law
On April 14th, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed legislation effectively decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. As of October 1st, 2014, the new decriminalization bill will impose fines, rather than criminal penalties and potential jail time, on those in possession of less than ten grams of marijuana.
Governor O’Malley also signed two bills that will provide qualifying patients safe access to medical marijuana. Maryland’s 2013 medical marijuana law relies on hospitals getting involved in the distribution of marijuana; none have done so thus far. The two new bills will allow dispensaries and cultivators to provide medical marijuana directly to patients whose physicians have provided a recommendation.
Quebec Doctors Told Not to Prescribe Cannabis Despite New Law
Despite new federal regulations that have come as a result of the transition to the MMPR program, physicians in Quebec are being advised against prescribing medical marijuana to their patients. Quebec’s College of Physicians (CMQ) released a series of guidelines earlier this month restricting doctors in Quebec from complying with Health Canada’s new medical marijuana program. Under CMQ guidelines, only patients suffering from one of the following seven conditions are eligible for medical marijuana: multiple sclerosis, spinal injury, spinal cord disease, cancer, AIDS/HIV, epilepsy, and arthritis.
At the moment, cannabis is not an approved therapeutic product according to Health Canada. The establishment of the MMPR, which places the responsibility of prescribing medical marijuana on physicians, blatantly contradicts Health Canada’s stance on the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. Resistance to prescribing cannabis is not only a trend in Quebec – recent statistics from Health Canada indicate that only 7% of physicians in Canada have ever recommended medical marijuana.
Health Canada Greenleaf Recall
A batch of Purple Kush sold by B.C.-based producer Greenleaf Medicinals was recalled earlier this month by Federal health authorities. Few details regarding the nature of the recall have been released despite issues with the company’s production practices being identified. Out of the 40,000 Canadians with authorization to use medical marijuana, only 63 patients had purchased their medicine from Greenleaf Medicinals. Greenleaf Medicinals has been removed from Health Canada’s list of Licensed Producers, and the company’s website is no longer accessible.
Under the new MMPR guidelines, Licensed Producers are subject to strict quality control protocols designed to protect patients against harmful pesticides, molds, and contaminants. With the release, and recall, of potentially contaminated cannabis, the efficacy of the MMPR has been drawn into question; however, the fact that such a recall has been issued does point to the benefits of having strict requirements for producers, and at the very least, does display that patient safety is a central concern.
Arizona Supreme Court Overturns Marijuana DUI Verdict
With the dawn of legalization in Colorado and Washington this year, news has been rife with deliberation over cannabis DUI regulations. Despite anecdotal, and scientific, evidence that levels of THC in the bloodstream and level of driver impairment are not necessarily proportional, many states have enacted legislation that requires law enforcement to impose DUI’s on drivers whose blood, once tested, is in excess of a chosen THC limit. Many activists have spoken out against such legislation, and this month a ruling in the Arizona Supreme Court sided with activists, and more importantly, with common sense.
The Arizona Supreme court ruled that the state could only prosecute motorists for driving under the influence of marijuana if a person is impaired during the traffic stop. The verdict overturned a recent decision by the state Court of Appeals that gave prosecutors the right to indict marijuana users of charges of DUI, even without significant proof that they were actually impaired at the time of arrest.
This recent ruling protects marijuana users, whether recreational or medicinal, from unfair and unjust punishment, and illustrates that we are capable of enacting intelligent and scientifically founded legislation.
As a note, NORML does not endorse or condone driving while impaired by any substance, and encourages all motorists to be aware and respectful of local laws.
Frequent Cannabis Consumers Less Likely to Engage in Problematic Alcohol Use
According to a recent survey conducted by the Department of Clinical Sciences at Lund University in Sweden, frequent cannabis consumers (those who reported to have consumed cannabis two or three times per week) were less likely to engage in hazardous drinking practices compared to infrequent users (those who reported to have consumed cannabis fewer than four times per month). Investigators surveyed over 22,000 respondents between the ages of 15 and 64.
This is not the first time that the substitutive effects of cannabis have been researched. A paper published in February in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism concluded that
…cannabis does appear to be a potential substitute for alcohol. Perhaps more importantly, cannabis is both safer and potentially less addictive than benzodiazepines and other pharmaceuticals that have been evaluated as substitutes for alcohol.
Although perhaps many of us have drawn similar conclusions based on our own personal empirical studies, it is fantastic to see the emergence of scientific research on cannabis from reputable academic institutions.
To read the full article please visit blog.norml.org
NORML Canada Events in May
NORML Canada will be attending the Global Marijuana March on May 3rd, 2014 in Toronto’s Queen’s Park at noon, with the march itself to occur at 2pm. We will be handing out leaflets and will hope to see many of you there! Over 700 different cities around the world will be hosting marijuana marches on Saturday May 3rd and you should check to see if your city is hosting an event. For more information, please visit globalmarijuanamarch.ca.
In addition, NORML Canada’s first ever national conference will be happening in Toronto from May 23-25 at the Metro Convention Centre during the CHAMPS Canada expo. NORML Canada will be hosting events on Saturday May 24th and Sunday May 25th, with speakers and activists from around the world here to join the debate about legalizing cannabis. Please come and show your support. More information is available at www.champsca.com and you can purchase tickets to the Expo on the website or through EventBrite right here.