We apologize for not having a blog post last week since we went on vacation but we make up for it this week with some positive news and research.
Government Relaxes Employment Rules for Marijuana Users
The Acting Director of The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Kathleen McGettigan, sent a statement to heads of federal departments and agencies about federal employees using cannabis and their suitability for employment. The letter definitely shows a softening of the federal government’s stance on employees using cannabis. While still saying that employees are not allowed to use cannabis because it is a Schedule I substance, it also says that prior use should not prevent the government from hiring a candidate.
The letter to government heads of office brings up the fact that fifteen states and D.C. have removed criminal prohibition on medical and recreational marijuana and an additional 33 states permit medical use. This causes federal agencies to increasingly encounter well-qualified individuals that may have a history of cannabis use. This creates a problem for the federal government because their pool of possible candidates is becoming smaller. Kathleen McGettigan admits that 49% of Americans have admitted to using marijuana.
When the government considers an applicant for a position who has used marijuana, the applicant should be “evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine the impact, if any, to the integrity and the efficiency of the Government.”
“The OPM’s suitability regulations regarding illegal drug use do not permit agencies to automatically find individuals unsuitable for federal service on the basis of marijuana use prior to appointment. Even where an individual has illegaly used marijuana without evidence of substantial rehabilitation, agencies cannot find an individual unsuitable unless there is a nexus between the conduct and the ‘integrity or… efficiency of the service.’”
She also emphasized that federal employees who are caught using marijuana do not need to be fired. “Discipline is not required for current employees who seek counseling or rehabilitation and thereafter refrain from using illegal drugs.”
IRS Prefers Cannabis Businesses Pay Electronically
The IRS commissioner Charles Rettig told the House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee that he would prefer if state-legal marijuana businesses would pay taxes electronically. Right now the businesses are unable to use banks and are paying cash to the federal government.
The situation as it stands is a security issue for the IRS because their employees who receive these payments at their taxpayer assistance centers have to handle huge sums of cash. This makes them at risk for robberies and criminal activity.
After some setbacks, New Jersey has finally completed its recreational marijuana bill. Governor Murphy has signed multiple bills to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over. Penalties for small amounts of cannabis have been removed as well.
New Jersey already had a medical marijuana law but now patients can use it for nonmedical reasons. This may affect Pennsylvania and New York residents who can now drive to New Jersey and purchase cannabis there. In theory, they are not allowed to bring it back to their home states, but it is unclear how this will be enforced. For now, residents in neighboring states will need to provide a medical marijuana card to prevent criminal prosecution.
The Missouri Supreme Court made a chilling comment to attorneys practicing law there. “In counseling or assisting a client, if a state law conflicts with federal law, the lawyer should advise the client of that fact but cannot (1) undertake conduct that would violate federal law or (2) counsel or assist the client as to how to perform an act that would violate federal law even if that conduct would be lawful under the state statutory or constitutional law.”
This means lawyers could get in trouble for helping dispensaries, growing facilities, and even patients. The comment contradicts the Missouri medical marijuana law that is supposed to protect attorneys from working with marijuana patients and organizations. It appears that the Missouri Supreme Court is attempting to disregard the majority vote of its citizens that legalized medical cannabis.
Medical marijuana has passed in the Alabama Senate. Law makers voted 21-8 to allow doctors to approve cannabis for patients for conditions like anxiety, nausea, chronic pain, and sleep disorders. The bill still has to pass the House of Representatives to become law.
This is a great step forward for Alabama since sleep disorders is allowed to be treated with cannabis. Few states have allowed insomnia to be a qualified condition despite cannabis being one of the best treatments it. Currently, treatment of insomnia requires harmful and addicting drugs like zolpidem (Ambien). Anyone who has tried this medication knows how sedating it is since it literally is supposed to sedate someone. Patients experience severe side effects like sleep walking and not remembering activities performed in the night while asleep. Marijuana is a great alternative so patients don’t have to take medications like that.
Unfortunately, the Alabama House of Representatives is taking their time voting on this bill. House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said they will be sending it through the Judiciary and Health committees before it comes to the House floor. That is a rare to happen. It doesn’t sound like they want cannabis to be legalized anytime soon but at least the bill passed the Senate. That is progress for the conservative state.
The state of Washington Supreme Court struck down felony penalties for simple drug possession. A bill to decriminalize all drugs has already passed a legislative committee last month.
The Seattle Police Department said in a public statement that simple drug possession “is no longer an arrestable offense.”
The Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys sent a memo directing its prosecutors to stop all ongoing drug possession cases and seek orders vacating convictions for past cases.” The group also told the Seattle Police Department to “advise your officers as to whether officers should still seize the unlawful drugs as contraband or leave them in possession of the individual.”
This is a sign that the War on Drugs is coming to an end. It only begins with marijuana legalization… It appears that America is moving towards the opposite approach to the War on Drugs, where drugs are allowed and drug abuse is treated as a health illness rather than a criminal matter.
Weed giant Verano is a huge Chicago-based marijuana company that has gone on a spending spree acquiring TerraVida of Pennsylvania for $135 million dollars. This goes to show how cannabis businesses are being bought by larger ones and big corporations are running all of the show. Part of the reason is that states often only allow a limited amount of licenses to run cannabis companies and this prevents smaller organizations with less funding to apply from competing.
Verano already owned dispensaries in Pennsylvania called Zen Leaf, located in Altoona, Harrisburg, and York.
No Increase in Incidence of Driving Under Influence of Marijuana After Legalization
A study was published that evaluated whether or not patients in car accidents were more likely to test positive for THC in states that had legalized cannabis. The results show that there is no increase in the incidence of driving under the influence of THC in states that have legalized pot.
The study did show that there have been more patients testing positive for THC across all states, which likely is a result of general increase in acceptance of pot by the population. More people are using it so more people who also have been in a car accident (regardless of if they drove high) will test positive for THC.
The state with the highest percentage of THC positives after a car accident was Texas, where marijuana is still prohibited. This suggests that states that legalize cannabis should not be concerned that more of their motor vehicle accidents will be a result of their new laws.
While cannabis has been shown to lower reaction time, it is still unclear whether it leads to increased motor vehicle accidents. Unlike alcohol, which is obviously a detriment to driving, cannabis may cause patients to be more careful behind the wheel so much that any affect on their reaction times is more than compensated for. Of course, we still encourage patients to refrain from using cannabis before driving or other heavy machinery use.
Please check back next week for another update on cannabis law changes and research. If you learned something please share this on Facebook for us so other people can also stay up-to-date about cannabis reform!