Cannabis and politics are at an intriguing crossroads as we creep ever
closer to the next election year. Politicians must decide how to position
themselves on the hot-button issue of cannabis legalization. Many potential
legalization bills have been proposed in the House of Representatives but very
few have ever made it out of committee. National legalization bills have a
history of facing intense scrutiny in the houses of Congress. There are a
number of reasons for this but the vast differences in political opinions of
members of Congress makes compromise on any bill, let alone one about a hot
button issue like cannabis legalization, very difficult.
However, on Wednesday, November 20th, a new bill that would decriminalize cannabis nationally, allow states to make their own laws on full-scale legalization, and create the potential for expunging criminal records related to cannabis arrests passed in the House Judiciary Committee.
Chances of the Bill Passing
Though it is tough to envision a cannabis bill actually seeing the light of
day, there is hope for this most recent iteration. The bill already has 50
co-sponsors, bipartisan support from notable pro-cannabis legalization
Republicans like Matt
Gaetz of Florida, and passed the House Judiciary Committee with a vote of
24-10. It is always encouraging when Republicans and Democrats can agree on
legislation, especially when it comes to a potential cannabis legalization
bill. Recently, the House of Representatives passed the SAFE
Banking Act with bipartisan support. The bill allows for cannabis
businesses to bank safely and discreetly. Its passage shows the willingness of
Congressional Republicans and Democrats to work together to pass a cannabis
The House cannabis bill is undoubtedly an exciting moment for those in the legalization movement. As promising as the bill seems, it is unlikely that it will be passed without major changes. It may pass the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, but will face an intense battle in the Republican-controlled Senate. As unlikely as the bill’s passage is, those investing in the cannabis industry seem to believe the bill has a chance to become a part of American law soon.
Impact On The Cannabis Industry
As news of the forwarding of the house cannabis bill was announced, cannabis
company stocks soared. The three biggest cannabis stocks, Canopy Growth, Tilray
Inc., and Aurora Cannabis all saw prices rise between 8% and 15% on Wednesday,
according to Reuters. Investor excitement is palpable, but some experts
warn about the long term future for the House cannabis bill. Alan Brochstein,
managing partner at New Cannabis Ventures, cautioned that the bill is, “such an
early step in a long process that there are no near-term implications for
The merits of the House cannabis bill will likely debated for the next few
months. Changes will be made and votes will be cast before anything is set in
stone. Whether or not this iteration of a legalization bill becomes law is
unknown, but the fact that some politicians continue to fight for cannabis
legalization is tremendously promising.
The state of Minnesota is making headlines this December, not for its freezing temperatures or a new record snowfall, but for increasing medical cannabis access. Clinical cannabis got its start in the state when former governor Mark Dayton signed the first Minnesota medical cannabis bill into law in 2014. Many criticized the bill for being far too restrictive as it listed only 9 qualifying conditions and stipulates a lengthy patient registration process. However, as of December 3rd, 2019, the state added macular degeneration and the much more generally outlined chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions. Minnesota can now expect to see more registered medical cannabis patients thanks to the expanded list of qualifying conditions.
Making Medical Marijuana More Accessible
Though many American states have taken steps to legalize clinical cannabis, a number of potential patients still do not have access. In most cases, state regulations prevent people with certain conditions from using medical cannabis. If the state regulatory body does not list a medical condition as qualifying, then people suffering from that condition may not use cannabis for medicinal reasons, even if a medical professional recommends it as a potential treatment. The stringent nature of qualifying condition lists make Minnesota’s addition of chronic pain as a qualifying condition a massive win for medical cannabis advocates.
Chronic pain is a very generally defined medical condition. Any number of ailments can cause it and is usually up to the patient to define. For these reasons, acquiring a recommendation for medical cannabis can be far easier than it is for other conditions. There is little doubt that Minnesota’s clinical cannabis patient registry will expand greatly in the coming months thanks to the addition of chronic pain and macular degeneration. According to the Boston Globe, “As of October, nearly 18,000 patients were certified for the state’s medical marijuana program.” That number is bound to increase as more conditions make the list.
The Future of Medical Cannabis in Minnesota
Many consider Minnesota as having one of the more severely restrictive medical cannabis programs. Though Minnesota’s list of qualifying conditions is still small, it is encouraging that the state continues to implement updates. Lawmakers must work with patients and advocates to continue to pursue the creation of a fair and easily accessible medical cannabis program. If the state continues to update its list of qualifying conditions, it can at least begin to change the narrative.
In recent years, the United States and Canada have become the leaders of the cannabis legalization movement. While these countries have taken charge, England and the rest of the United Kingdom have lagged far behind. This week, the National Health Service (NHS) approved two cannabis-derived medicines for the first time. The news comes as a welcome surprise to some in the English legalization movement.
Cannabis Policy Overseas
There are a number of factors that contribute to the excruciatingly slow pace at which legalization efforts have moved in England. One key reason for this stand still is the division of public opinion. While 66% of Americans support cannabis legalization, only 48% of English citizens favor making the growth, sale, and use of cannabis legal. The U.K. government will be far less likely to push forward any legalization movement that less than a majority of its population supports. Until public opinion shifts, NHS policy will not budge.
While legislative policy in England remains stagnant, the NHS continues to research potential cannabis based medicines. Medical cannabis is not legal in the U.K., but the NHS has the ability to approve medicines derived from the plant if it believes they can improve the lives of people suffering from illnesses.
Though cannabis legalization may seem far away in England, the NHS recently approved two cannabis based medications for use. The two medications, Epidiolex and Sativex, are used to treat epilepsy and multiple sclerosis respectively.
Approving Medicines That Can Change Lives
Epidiolex may be familiar to Americans and Canadians as it was the first cannabis based medication to be approved by the FDA in both countries. Now, the NHS has approved it for use in the UK. This medication is CBD based and treats a specific form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome.
Despite the fact that Epidiolex features no THC and causes no high, some regulators and medical practitioners have felt uneasy about its approval simply because it is cannabis-derived. Despite its detractors, the safety and efficacy of Epidiolex is something that families of loved ones with Dravet epilepsy appreciate.
Sativex, the second medication that is now NHS-approved for UK patients, has not received prescription approval in the US, but is approved for patients in Canada. This treatment comes in an oral spray form and consists of delta-9 THC and CBD. Practitioners use Sativex to treat spasticity associated with MS. One of the more devastating conditions associated with MS, symptoms include muscle stiffness and severe spasticity. Sativex treats this by alleviating inflammation and aiding in neurotransmission to the affected muscles.
The British public clearly lacks the same enthusiasm about cannabis legalization as the United States and Canada. However, the NHS approval of two cannabis based medicines has a chance to become a tipping point that convinces people that cannabis is a viable medication.