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February 16, 2023 0 Comments

Federal and State Legislators abuzz about cannabis

Legislators on both the federal and state level are abuzz with decisions regarding cannabis in the United States. 

Legislation in Louisiana

A loophole in laws regarding hemp and CBD sales has led to Delta-8 and Delta-9 products being sold in retail locations other than CBD shops. Though THC levels in hemp are much lower than in marijuana, retailers have produced products that stack multiple servings of the 8-milligram THC limit in one product like edible gummies or chocolate bars. This not only encourages over-consumption which can lead to unwanted side effects like confusion, paranoia, increased heart rate, hallucinations, and severe nausea but these products, often in brightly colored packaging, can be confused with regular gummies or candies without realizing it. 

At the beginning of February, the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee held an oversight hearing for agency officials to explain why they need to make an emergency rule change that would remove vape pens from the department’s approved products list. In addition, retailers are stocking “multipacks” that contain the amount needed to achieve a “high” from the low levels of THC in hemp. One solution that was discussed is limiting the amount that’s allowed to be packaged and purchased. The group also admitted that there are more than 3,000 CBD retailers in Louisiana and the state has not hired enough personnel to properly oversee their operation. 

In response to proposed changes, business owners and all legislators voiced their complaints about rules that are constantly changing and causing retailers to change the way they operate “on the fly”. “You have to treat our businesses with some respect,” Monroe Rep. Michael Echols (R) said. “There needs to be a fair process.” The group agreed to table any decisions until more information could be gathered.

Meanwhile, Back in D.C.

After President Joe Biden signed into law in December of 2022 the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act — a bill introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)— research into many areas of marijuana, its medicinal effects, conditions, methods of delivery, and more are being researched in the United States.

Current data has been mostly anecdotal, but this new freedom for researchers to explore marijuana opens the door to discussion and discovery without fear of federal intervention and litigation for the first time. In addition, legislators are currently considering a revised piece of legislation to promote cannabis research for military veterans, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain (NOTE: This passed yesterday! That makes this the first piece of standalone cannabis legislation ever to advance through a committee in the chamber.)

Under Federal law, cannabis containing more than 0.3 THC is classified as a Schedule I drug. Previously, federal funds could not be used to study the health effects of cannabis without approval from multiple federal agencies, which could take years. Now, with the passing of the first standalone cannabis reform legislation on the federal level, the approval process for research is streamlined, and responses for applications are mandated within 60 days.

Further studies will allow scientists and researchers to more fully understand the impact of cannabis on the human body with reference to scientific discovery rather than anecdotal evidence. This information can also be effectively used by physicians, patients, lawmakers, and business owners to refine the way we define cannabis, its effects, and its medicinal uses. It even clears to way for the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to develop medicines derived from cannabis and allows accredited research institutions with the proper Schedule I registration to cultivate, distribute, dispense, or possess their own marijuana for research purposes.

To take a look at research as it develops, there are a couple of extensive, searchable databases available online. One is assembled by STEM (Systematically Testing the Evidence on Marijuana). Visitors can search by condition, population (of those included in the study), adverse effects, or other filtering options. Click here to view the research. Google Scholar allows you to search any subject and sort by date and other options. Click here to access Google Scholar.

The Bruen Precedent

This month, two federal appellate courts cited last summer’s landmark Supreme Court decision in the NYSRPA v. Bruen case when they ruled that laws prohibiting certain criminal classes from possessing firearms were unconstitutional. The ruling also gave us what has become known as the Bruen test for gun-control legislation. In other words, any regulatory policy must align with laws that existed around the time the Constitution was written and expanded after the Civil War. 

Specifically, the case against Jared Harrison relates to cannabis possession and firearms. Harrison was stopped for a traffic violation. During the stop, the officers noticed an ankle monitor and found that he was awaiting trial for aggravated assault. After searching his vehicle, they found cannabis products and a gun and arrested him for drug and traffic violations. Several months later, a federal grand jury indicted Harrison for violating the Gun Control Act, specifically possessing a firearm with knowledge that he was an unlawful user of marijuana. In a decision made earlier this month, the federal appellate court called the violation “unconstitutionally vague” and said it “unconstitutionally infringes upon his fundamental right to possess a firearm.”  They dismissed the charges. 

Cannabis attorney Griffen Thorne explained that, up to this point, the federal government has viewed all marijuana users as prohibited persons despite legal changes at the state level. While others have filed similar challenges before, the Harrison case relied on the Bruen test.

Although changes won’t be immediate, Thorne said that he predicts other courts will issue similar rulings in the future months and years. “The result could restore Second Amendment rights to many cannabis users who have been denied them,” he wrote in a recent post.

The Future of Cannabis

Changes in rules regarding cannabis on the state level paired with federal legislation that opens up opportunities for research and more refinement to those laws will likely result in legislation that’s closer to something both legislators and medical marijuana patients can live with. Until then, click the button below to get legal in Louisiana.