Thursday, June 15, 2017

Support the CARERS Act of 2017-2018

And Protect State Medical Cannabis Programs!

The bipartisan CARERS Act reduces the role of the federal government in formulating drug policy and allows states to make determinations on their own drug policies. Giving the power to decide drug policy to the states reinforces the principles of federalism on which our country was founded. CARERS stands for Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States. The original version of the bill would have ended the drug war, at least with regard to cannabis. This latest version is softer.

As advocates for safe access to medical cannabis, you know that removing the fear of federal prosecution for patients is crucial, particularly since our new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has made his negative views of medical cannabis clear. The CARERS Act of 2017 will finally be officially introduced today by Senators Booker (D-NJ), Gillibrand (D-NY), Franken (D-MN), Paul (R-KY), Murkowski (R-AK) and Lee (R-UT).

The CARERS Act 2017:
1)Prohibits the federal government from interfering in state medical cannabis programs
2)Enables Veterans Administration doctors to recommend medical cannabis in states with medical   cannabis  programs
3)Removes some of the barriers to researching medical cannabis, including the NIDA monopoly
4)Removes cannabidiol (CBD) from the list of controlled substances

1. Real cannabis reform is possible on the federal level, and you can make it happen. Right this very moment, the bipartisan CARERS Act 2017 is being introduced in the U.S. Senate at an event in Washington, D.C., with patient advocates like you.

2. The CARERS Act reduces the role of the federal government in formulating drug policy and allows states to make determinations on their own drug policies. Giving the power to decide drug policy to the states reinforces the principles of federalism on which our country was founded.  

3. Patients need the Senate to pass CARERS so that they have access to the medicine they need. Please take action today, and urge your Senators to cosponsor this legislation.
First, CARERS would change the Controlled Substances Act to allow states to make their own medical cannabis laws. Currently 30 States already do this, but the modification to the CSA would stop the federal government from prosecuting anybody in states where medical cannabis is legal. Right now there are no concrete protections, especially with AG Jeffery Sessions recent comments, aside from the temporary Rohrabacher-Blumenauer budget amendment, and states operate under vague threats and hints from federal officials in Trump’s Administration.
The CARERS Act would also cure one of the state-caused bottlenecks in medical supply chains. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration groups cannabidiol (CBD) with the other Schedule I cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Many states specifically allow medical CBD, which can treat nervous diseases including epilepsy, but don’t allow for its production. The resulting nationwide confusion has led to raids and seizures, even in states where the far more psychoactive cannabinoid THC is legal. The CARERS Act would strip CBD out of the Controlled Substances Act so states could import it. 

Cannabis is Medicine and the Federal Government Owns a Patent for it.  The U.S. Patent Office issued patent #6630507 to the U.S.Health and Human Services filed on 2/2/2001. The patent lists the use of cannabinoids found within the plant cannabis sativa plant as useful in certain neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and HIV dementia. Since cannabis sativa (marijuana) contains compounds recognized and endorsed by an agency of the U.S. government- Why is it that cannabis remains on the Federal Schedule One list of drugs? The issuance of patent #6630507 is a direct contradiction of the Government’s own definition for classification of a Schedule 1 drug. The U.S. government’s own National Institutes of Health researchers even concluded: “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that Information on safety is lacking.” Maybe there are some big pharma lobbyists and bigwig campaign finance contributors that would get a little upset. In article in American-Statesman staff writer Jeremy Schwartz in 2012 noted that in 2011, “the Pentagon spent more on pills, injections and vaccines than it did on Black Hawk helicopters, Abrams tanks, Hercules C-130 cargo planes and Patriot missiles — combined.” The military spent at least $2.7 billion on antidepressants and more than $1.6 billion on opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin and hydrocodone over the past decade. More than $507 million was spent on the sleeping pill Ambien and its generic equivalents.”  the pharmaceutical industry spent about $1.7 million for more than 1,400 trips for Defense Department doctors and pharmacists to places such as Paris, Las Vegas and New Orleans between 1998 and 2007.  All those Pills killed a lot of Veterans, Cannabis has a 5000 year history with zero deaths associated with it.

"The American Medical Association has no objection to any reasonable regulation of the medicinal use of cannabis and its preparations and derivatives. It does pretest, however, against being called upon to pay a special tax, to use special order forms in order to procure the drug, to keep special records concerning its professional use and to make special returns to the Treasury Department officials, as a condition precedent to the use of cannabis in the practice of medicine."   ~ Wm. C. Woodward, Legislative Counsel - 11:37 AM Monday, July 12, 1937
Along the same patient access lines, CARERS would allow veterans to get prescriptions for cannabis from their Veterans Affairs doctors. Because of federal laws, current VA physicians are not allowed to talk about cannabis with veterans.

Nowhere in the US Constitution is it written that the federal government can regulate cannabis. The Constitution defines the powers of the federal government, and according to the Tenth Amendment, if it’s not in the Constitution, it’s a state power. States’ rights have advanced state medical cannabis programs since the 1970’s and paved the way for states with legal adult use of cannabis, states should continue on that same policy path for the issue of cannabis research. States like Washington and Oregon should get full commendations on leading the way for states’ rights in the act of “legislating” for freedom by breaking tyrannical barriers for research on a plant with so much promise. Prohibition of cannabis is not a fundamental right that should be imposed on the states by the federal government, it’s a choice that states should be allowed to make based on their culture and their values-allowing states to once again be laboratories of democracy.

"...a state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country." - Justice Louis Brandeis
Medical Cannabis As An Exit Drug For Addiction.  In New Mexico, according to the Department of Health, the drug overdose rate in 2014 was still twice that of the national average. It was the #1 cause of unintentional injury or death in New Mexico. Seventy-five percent of those drug overdose deaths involving opioids or heroin. During the time period of 2001 - 2014, medical prescription sales of opioids increased 236% in New Mexico.  That's lead to an average of 10 New Mexicans dying per week. New Mexico saw a statistically significant increase from 2013-2014 in overdose deaths caused by opioids. According to CDC state data, a increase of 20.8% in opioid overdose deaths was reported. "Research suggests that people are using cannabis as an exit drug to reduce the use of substances that are potentially more harmful, such as opioid pain medication." Says a lead investigator on addiction, Zach Walsh, a professor of psychology at University of British Columbia.  For example, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found a 25 percent lower rate of opioid overdose deaths in states with legal medical cannabis, compared to those without such laws.  Another study, published in Health Affairs, found that in states with medical marijuana, each doctor wrote 1,800 fewer annual opioid prescriptions. A study by the Rand Institute showed that medical cannabis states have not only lower overdose death rates — but also lower opioid addiction rates. And, research conducted with chronic pain patients found that those who used medical marijuana were able to reduce opioid by use by 64 percent — while experiencing fewer side effects and better quality of life. Other research, meanwhile, finds reductions in the number of drivers age 21- 40 involved in fatal crashes with opioids in their system in medical cannabis states.
(This petition for the Medical Treatment that pertains to: Requesting The Inclusion Of A New Medical Condition: Substance Abuse Disorder, is being provided to the state Department of Health Medical Cannabis Program so the advisory board can review and recommend to the department for approval additional debilitating medical conditions that would benefit from the medical use of cannabis with the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act. Submitted 03/2017 to New Mexico Department of Health.)

Finally, the bill would simplify how researchers can get their hands on cannabis for studies. Right now, nearly all researchers are legally bound to use the poor-quality cannabis grown at the University of Mississippi.

Please Tell Your Senators to cosponsor and Support the CARERS Act of 2017!