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U.S. Veterans Support Use of Medical Marijuana in the Treatment of PTSD

The American Legion, the largest wartime veterans’ service group in the United States, released a national survey showing that an overwhelming majority of veterans support the legalization of medical marijuana.

According to the survey, more than 80% of the veterans would want to see the substance as a federally legal option for medical treatment. The survey also showed that 92% of veteran households back medical marijuana research for the treatment of physical and mental conditions.

The Legion, which has around two million members across the country, conducted its telephone survey from October 8 to 10, 2017, through independent public opinion research firm Five Corners Strategies. The results of the survey were announced at a press conference last week.

Veterans ask for relaxed federal restrictions on medical marijuana

Last year, the Legion has adopted a resolution calling on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the federal government, in general, to relax their restrictions on marijuana. They asked Congress to reclassify marijuana from currently being an illicit (Schedule 1) drug and to recognize it as a substance carrying potential medical value.

Moreover, the resolution seeks that the DEA license privately funded operations that produce medical marijuana.

Soldiers suffering from PTSD swear by marijuana

The veterans group argued that access to medical marijuana greatly helps in reducing suicide rates among soldiers and in easing their suffering as they return from the horrors they experience in the war.

The group’s spokesman, Joe Plenzler, said that there are young men and women suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain – especially those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan – who come to the Legion to personally attest that marijuana works.

According to Plenzler, who is a former lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, veterans turn to medical marijuana as alternative to drugs like opioids and anti-depressants, which they say adversely affect their personality and their mood. They also say that these drugs cause prevailing thoughts of suicide.

However, because marijuana is listed as a Schedule I substance, veterans are not able to get coverage for medical marijuana, even within those states that have already legalized it. When it comes to their health care, many of the veterans depend on the federal Veterans Affairs Department.

We owe it to our soldiers to do more marijuana research

At the press conference, National Director of Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Lou Celli stated that, at one point, he also did not believe in the benefits of medical marijuana. However, the veterans persisted and they are suffering.

Celli, a retired Army master sergeant and a former law enforcement officer, noted that there were veterans who claimed that the only reason they were still alive and didn’t commit suicide was medical marijuana. That, to him, was a powerful testimony of what marijuana can do.


Celli said that America owes it to these veterans to do the research.

He also said it is ironic that opioids, which cause the death of over 90 Americans every day, are listed as Schedule II and III narcotics. In fact, he cited that there were more opioid fatalities among Americans last year compared to the number of American soldiers who were killed in action in the Vietnam War.

The Legion stated that while the veterans’ stories are compelling, there is a need for more research to be done in order for lawmakers to have a fact-based discussion on future drug policy.

No support for recreational marijuana

The Legion made it very clear that its support for marijuana only goes as far as its use for medical purposes. It does not advocate the recreational use of the substance.



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Women Are Dominating the Cannabis Industry

There is no dearth of women who are helping shape the world of legal cannabis. In fact, depending on who you ask, or what article you read, several names appear as the most prominent female executives in the cannabis industry. You may hear about Jana Perez, Jane West, Johanna Mortz, Shaleen Title, Lynne Lyman, and Laura Harris. Recently, CannaNews has awarded their Cannabis Industry Women of the Year Awards to Kary Radestock, who heads Hippo Premium Packaging, and to Genifer Murray, who founded CannLabs.

There is no question that women are making their mark in cannabis-related business. In fact, it would seem that the cannabis industry is currently dominated by women. According to a recent survey conducted by New Frontier Data and Women Grow, there are more women working in cannabis-related businesses than men, comprising close to 60% of its work force. Zeroing in on just the owners, around half of cannabis businesses are owned by women. For three out of every ten companies, all their owners were women.

The new study pored over interviews from at least 1,700 people who are connected to the marijuana industry. Their replies were evaluated according to these main points: cannabis usage, how diverse upper management is, how different people were included in the formulation of the business strategy, and the benefits and compensation. Gender discrimination, racial discrimination and sexual harassment were also evaluated.

This is a very promising trend in that it shows that women were not being left out in the cannabis business world. In fact, it seems that the fairer sex more often than not controls the reins and the direction in which their respective companies would go.

Why women rule the cannabis industry

Women, the study shows, holds a majority ownership in around five to six out of every 10 cannabis company.

The cannabis industry is a rather young one, and women are able to enter without having to work doubly hard to earn the same amount of money as men do, doing the same amount of work. This has been the unfair conditions in more traditional businesses, where women are not paid as much as men for the same work. It also breaks the glass ceiling, or that invisible threshold that keeps women out of boardrooms and C-suites.

More minorities needed

However, some areas need to improve. New Frontier Data CEO Giadha Aguirre de Carcer remarked that while the mix of women and men holding important positions in these businesses is encouraging, racial minorities are still under-represented.

In September 2017, Howard University held a panel discussion with people of color who run marijuana businesses. The consensus is clear: there needs to be more minorities in ownership positions. This is important because the war on drugs has unfairly targeted minorities. Another roadblock is that some of the minorities who try to apply dispensary licenses have criminal records, which makes it more difficult for them to secure the license.

Conflicting reports

While the recent study shows around half of the executive and ownership positions in the industry are held by women, another report cite a much smaller figure.

The Marijuana Business Daily relates that 27% of cannabis executives are women, down from 36% just two years prior. This is because more men are entering the industry, and they might have better credentials on paper, with easy access to funding, and previous entrepreneurial experience.

The report also reveals that one in every four cannabis-related businesses are founded or owned by women.

Still, even with the decline in the number, that 27% figure is still better than the national average of female executives, which is at 23%. This means that compared to other industry, the cannabis space still has more female executives.

Women in the marijuana sector will continue to flourish. Even if they start now, they are still considered to be pioneers who have taken the risk in starting a business that may or may not be legal in the near future. What’s more, as female cannabis executives have shown, women are committed to helping push the growth of the industry along, helping build other businesses that they get in contact with.



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Marijuana Won Tuesday’s Election

Voters in two states chose new governors on Tuesday. Both of those elections — as well as the results of a number of local races across the country — will have huge implications for efforts to legalize marijuana.

Here’s an overview of cannabis-specific ballot measures that voters approved, along with details on how the Democratic gubernatorial wins in New Jersey and Virginia will boost marijuana reform campaigns in those states.


New Jersey Governor-Elect Phil Murphy

Phil Murphy, the incoming governor, campaigned on marijuana legalization.

“The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” he said during his primary night victory speech. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”

This summer he tweeted, “NJ’s marijuana laws cost $143M/yr & come w a 3:1 racial disparity in arrests.”

With Murphy replacing vocal cannabis opponent Chris Christie (R) as governor, New Jersey is poised to potentially become the first state to allow legal recreational marijuana sales with an act of its legislature, as opposed to by voters through a ballot measure.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) is “committed” to bringing up a legalization bill early in 2018. “We are going to have a new governor in January 2018,” he said. “As soon as the governor gets situated we are all here and we intend to move quickly on it.”

Virginia Governor-Elect Ralph Northam

Ralph Northam, who just got a raise from lieutenant governor to the state’s top job, made marijuana decriminalization a centerpiece of his campaign, often putting the issue in stark racial justice terms.

“We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana,” he wrote in a blog post. “African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia. The Commonwealth spends more than $67 million on marijuana enforcement — money that could be better spent on rehabilitation.”

Northam also sent a letter to the Virginia State Crime Commission, which is conducting a review of the effects of potential decriminalization. “Virginia spends $67 million on marijuana enforcement – enough to open up another 13,000 pre-K spots for children,” he wrote. “African Americans are nearly 3 times as likely to get arrested for simple possession of marijuana and sentencing guidelines that include jail time can all too often begin a dangerous cycle of recidivism.”

GOP Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment has already announced he will introduce legislation next year to decriminalize first-time marijuana possession offenses.

Also on Tuesday, Democrats picked up a large number of seats in the House of Delegates, which likely bodes well for Northam’s efforts to pass cannabis reform bills. Still-pending results in a handful of House of Delegates races could flip the chamber to Democratic control altogether.

Northam has also spoken in favor of expanding the state’s limited medical cannabis law and allowing industrial hemp.

Athens, Ohio, Marijuana Ordinance

Voters in the college town overwhelmingly approved a measure to completely eliminate fines and court costs for possessing and cultivating up to 200 grams of marijuana, a move that advocates believe will significantly disincentivized police from making low-level cannabis arrests. The result was 77 percent to 23 percent.

Last year, similar depenalization measures were passed in several other Ohio cities. Together, the results increase pressure on state lawmakers to more seriously consider further reform’s to overarching marijuana prohibition laws following last year’s passage of medical cannabis legislation.

Philadelphia District Attorney

Lawrence Krasner, the incoming top prosecutor, is a vocal criminal justice reform advocate who has made bold statements about cannabis enforcement.

“One of the things we see in other jurisdictions is that, where marijuana is readily available, there’s a 25 percent reduction in opiate/opioid overdose deaths,” he said this year. “So if Philadelphia is looking at 500 opiate/opioid overdose deaths a year, a district attorney, by choosing not to enforce against marijuana usage, can potentially save 125 lives. That’s what a district attorney should exercise his or her discretion to do.”

Detroit Medical Cannabis Propositions

Voters in Wayne County strongly approved two ballot measures that will allow medical cannabis business to operate in more areas and to stay open longer.

Advocates appear likely to place a full marijuana legalization measure on Michigan’s 2018 statewide ballot, and Detroit’s strong show of support for cannabis commerce bodes well for that broader effort.

New York Constitutional Convention Proposal

Voters resoundingly rejected a ballot proposition to convene a constitutional convention that some advocates hoped would provide a pathway toward marijuana legalization. Others remained skeptical of the multi-step plan to first pass the proposition and then elect anti-prohibition delegates in 2018, lobby the convention to approve a cannabis amendment and then ask voters to pass that on the ballot.

Now, advocates will focus their efforts on convincing the state legislature to pass legislation legalizing marijuana.

Look Ahead To 2018

Overall, Tuesday’s election results were extremely positive for marijuana reformers.

Next year, advocates are likely to qualify medical cannabis ballot measure in at least three states — Missouri, Oklahoma and Utah. Meanwhile, Michigan voters will probably decide on a full marijuana legalization measure.

And Murphy’s New Jersey will race Vermont and a handful of other states to become the first to end cannabis prohibition through legislators’ actions.

For now, it’s clear that marijuana just won the election.



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