U.S. News Updates
A member and former chairman of the Alaska Marijuana Control Board, Bruce Schulte, has been ousted from his position by Gov. Bill Walker. The decision was made by the governor as a result of “less than satisfactory” approaches to staff and the administrative process. Schulte was appointed to the position last July as one of two industry representatives. A spokesperson for Walker’s office said that the public has expressed concerns over the speed with which the industry is moving as well as concerns over the proposed cannabis cafés. Schulte freely admitted butting heads with the director of Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, Cynthia Franklin, and recalled an outburst from another member of the board staff who promptly resigned. The Alaska Marijuana Control Board will continue moving forward with the license approval process, although there is no word who will be replacing Schulte, or when.
A recent conference in Orlando sparked controversy after the Florida Medical Association (FMA) voted to oppose Amendment 2, a measure on November’s ballot that would legalize medical marijuana. While the vote was not entirely unexpected (FMA also opposed Amendment 2 when it was proposed in 2014), critics were outraged by the choice of venue for the announcement. The annual conference is funded by PhRMA, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, one of the largest trade groups representing pharmaceutical companies in America. The group, which stands to lose revenue if medical marijuana passes in the state, has already spent millions to defeat medical cannabis initiatives across the country. States that have legalized medical marijuana have seen drops prescription drug use and opioid abuse.
The Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program hit a new sales record, with $2.9 million in receipts during July. The peak in sales comes at a pivotal time for the program, which was just extended through 2020 by order of Gov. Bruce Rauner. The program was also expanded to include two new qualifying conditions, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and terminal illness. The program now has 8,891 qualified medical marijuana patients, 40 registered dispensaries, and has accrued $16.3 million in total sales.
Minnesota’s limited medical marijuana program just opened dispensary doors to patients who suffer from intractable pain. Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger announced last December that intractable pain would be added to the program effective August 1. Data from the state shows that 500 intractable pain patients have already registered as of July, a significant surge in registration for the program, which only has about 2,000 total patient. The state’s medical cannabis program was signed into law in 2014 and allows only pills, oils, and vaporization.
The New Jersey Senate approved a measure previously approved by the Assembly to allow the use of medicinal cannabis for sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if the condition cannot be treated by traditional means. The fate of the measure is now in the hands of Gov. Chris Christie, who has been vocally opposed to expanding the medical marijuana program in the past. A spokesman for his office was unavailable for comment.
Facing ongoing delays involving registry identification cards, New Mexico’s medical cannabis program entered its seventh month of disrupted access for patients. State law requires patient applications to be processed within 30 days, but in recent months patients have seen waits between 60 and 90 days. State Auditor Tim Keller sent a letter in June to the Department of Health Secretary-designate Lynn Gallagher, and will address the issues with the public at an Aug. 4 meeting at the Capitol.
International News Updates
A Czech Republic gardening shop owner is facing charges after being raided by Czech police as part of one of the biggest anti-drug operations in Czechia’s modern history. The gardening shop, Grow City, was targeted due to carrying supplies that could be used for cultivating cannabis, including nutrients, lighting systems and cultivation media, all of which are legal and readily available in many shops in the Czech Republic. Michal Optika, owner of the shop, was found guilty last December, but the judge decided not to punish him and to return all confiscated goods. Unfortunately, the ruling did not stick, and in April, a court reversed the decision, ordering Optika to serve a year of probation and halting the return of the seized goods. Optika has vowed to take his appeals to the Czech Constitutional Court or the European Court for Human Rights.
A former chef turned medical marijuana activist died of cancer this week while awaiting trial for the possession and cultivation of cannabis, which he was using to treat his symptoms. Masamitsu Yamamoto petitioned Japan’s health, justice, and agricultural ministries in the hopes that he might gain access to medicinal cannabis or be registered as a part of a clinical trial, but Japanese law prohibits medical research on cannabis. Punishment for violations of the cannabis law are severe, carrying a five-year prison sentence for the possession of even small amounts of cannabis. Yamamoto had been managing his symptoms well with the cannabis, but after his arrest, his condition worsened and he died of liver failure while awaiting sentencing. He hoped his case might spark public debate: “As long as there are people whose lives have been saved by medical marijuana,” he said, “research on it should be allowed. What is justice without life?”
Header image by Gage Skidmore