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What’s the deal with CBD-only legislation?

Nobody was more shocked than marijuana supporters when conservative states across the Deep South and Utah passed a spree of CBD-only laws. Not that it’s a guarantee for medical marijuana success as Utahans are discovering – another bill that proposed expanding the state’s restrictive CBD legislation died before it could be put to vote, even though the Mormon Church stopped fighting it.

However, advocates continue to be optimistic, with Marijuana Majority chairman Tom Angell intending to use the momentum to push another legislative bill in the future.

But it raises this key point: what good are CBD-only laws if more legislation is then needed to set up an access program, and why – since this is the case – do politicians not have broader medical marijuana problems to prevent this issue?

At the time of writing, 16 mostly Republican states have passed some kind of CBD legislation. CBD shot to prominence following CNN documentary, Weed, which focussed on Charlotte Figi, a young girl whose parents found CBD oil to be a successful and safe way of treating her epileptic seizure. Research on CBD indicates that the cannabinoid can help to reduce pain, muscle spasms and mental disorders like anxiety.

CBD has been given a fairer hearing by the public than THC because it’s non-psychoactive, meaning there’s no “high” side effect from medicating with it. Since CBD can’t get you high, you’d think the political battle would end there, but no – politicians at federal and state level all over America are doing their utmost to restrict access to CBD product, citing laughable concerns about the tiny levels of THC.

High-CBD, low-THC products simply don’t have the ‘ingredients’ to get a user high, no matter how many joints they smoke or bowls they rip. More likely is the deep-seated opposition to cannabis in any form that many American politicians have held for decades. It’s an age-old fight, and one some have little interest in giving up on, if only for selfish reasons. Consider Republican Jeff Sessions, who said, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” A baseless claim, but one that carries weight.

It’s common for CBD-only laws to – at least in their infancy – allow for possession of large quantities of CBD oil, but offer patients no medical program to obtain it. This forces patients to visit legalized states to buy their medicine and then risk getting caught by illegally taking it back home where the home state will protect their right to have the oil. It’s a stealth measure that has effectively kept marijuana prohibition intact.

Paul Armentano, NORML deputy director, says that the lawmakers in question “oppose the public’s access to marijuana”, accusing the legislation of being deliberately written so that restrictions maintain for otherwise approved products.

Florida and Georgia are the only two CBD-only states that don’t limit CBD oil distribution to just patients with seizure disorders or intractable epilepsy. Meanwhile, “affirmative defense” is the only protection for patients in other states, so they could technically be arrested and put on trial for having CBD oil.

And another group of states don’t permit marijuana to be cultivated in-state, forcing patients to “drug traffic” CBD oil back home, or buy it on the Internet – thankfully, CBD oil and CBD e-juice products are readily available on this site. But raising patients’ hopes with medical marijuana legislation and then dashing them by failing to offer provisions is heartless.

Because what passing CBD-only laws does is say to the general public and patients that they care enough to listen to the overwhelming, collective pro-marijuana voice and take action. Then, when the problem isn’t solved, they can palm the blame off elsewhere. All this does is keep the status quo which, until recently, was what many of these politicians were on the record wanting anyway.

As far as Armentano is concerned, there’s no possibility that poor legislation is due to confusion or clumsiness. “It’s strictly politics,” he bemoaned.

Marijuana advocates have their wits about them, and see CBD-only laws as a Trojan horse by anti-pot lawmakers to bury the issue, or at least kick it into the long grass.

Armentano said that CBD-only laws offer “cover” to politicians, which their spin doctors can then use to feed the public, but specifically patients a narrative that their representatives are helping them.

Wisconsin is a perfect case study for CBD-only legislation gone wrong. In 2014, CBD was legalized to treat seizure disorders, with patients able to receive medication after receiving a recommendation from their doctor. Here’s the catch: to recommend CBD, doctors needed to apply to the FDA for an investigational drug permit. With a “hard copy of a letter or other official documentation” also needed, Wisconsinite patients have had no feasible way of accessing CBD medication.

There was hope that bipartisan support in the Wisconsin Senate could help schedule a vote to amend the law before the chamber finishes session. But momentum has stalled and the chances of that happening appear slim.

Fed up mother Sally Schaeffer told Fox 6, “Parents and people are tired of fighting for something so simple.” Schaeffer became a medical marijuana advocate after her daughter Lydia – whom Wisconsin’s CBD-only law is named after – passed away. The law didn’t come quickly enough for Lydia to try CBD medication, but Sally is determined that other families don’t face the same outcome.

Stories of CBD treating epileptic children are hailing a new era for medical marijuana, with attention now on healing, not getting high. Indeed, Wisconsin’s legislation was drawn up with epileptic patients specifically in mind.

Angell notes that thanks to the news stories making rightly sympathetic arguments for children like Charlotte Figi, it’s very difficult for lawmakers to turn a blind eye. That and the increasing scientific research proving that CBD has medical benefits.

Dravet syndrome has been singled out for its ability to be treated with CBD. The cannabinoid has been shown to reduce seizures in those who have the rare epileptic conditions from several per day to just a handful per week. In legalized states, patients have access to CBD-rich strains like Charlotte’s Web and Cannatonic – this is an example of a more practical medical marijuana policy that doesn’t require much compromise from the opposition.

CBD-only laws may be wonky and far from ideal, but as part of the overall marijuana movement, they have to be seen as a good thing. It moves the starting point in our favor for the inevitable next debate.

Just a few years ago, the thought that states like Alabama, Utah and Georgia could be open to legalizing marijuana to any extent would be discarded immediately. Instead, legislation is, with the support of those electorates, trickling into place.

Movement in Washington has been slow. However, numerous appropriations bills have been passed through Congress, stopping the federal government from meddling or overriding state law. The less cannabis manufacturers, dispensers and users have to worry about the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Justice and the like, the better. When the DEA and DOJ would get involved, it’s your federal tax dollars they are spending to interfere with businesses abiding by their state’s marijuana laws.

Angell believes that without the plethora of new CBD-only laws, these appropriations bills would have failed.

When it came to discussing the measures, CBD advocates had these new conservative states to support their argument as they all stood to be affected by them. And thanks to CBD-only laws, states with more wide-ranging marijuana laws also get additional protection.

Angell reckons that even four years ago, he wouldn’t have believed that children across America, in vastly different states, would now have access to medical marijuana and that this would be the key factor in enhancing general marijuana legislation. What was once framed as a rebellious movement, marijuana activism is now correctly viewed as a caring movement.

But several states are still being choked by restrictive, ineffective CBD laws. States like Iowa, Tennessee and Wisconsin have huge public support for improving medical marijuana legislation and increasing access (to varying degrees), but politicians are stalling. Persistence is key, even in states like Georgia, where hopes that CBD-only laws would be broadened were dashed after Governor Deal and Georgia law enforcement opposed the idea.

Unfortunately, conservative states that approved CBD possession but haven’t permitted cultivation could be out to stitch patients up. In Oklahoma, qualifying conditions for a medical marijuana recommendation are on the rise, but there’s still no serious proposal for in-state cultivation. Virginia doesn’t even have legislation preventing patients from arrest for possessing CBD oil, despite having supposedly passed medical marijuana laws.

Let’s think long-term: if public support for medical marijuana remains rock steady and vocal, eventually lawmakers will have to come round on reasonable demands like in-state cultivation. Furthermore, if a state has medical marijuana legislation to any degree, it’s an indication that the electorate have the ability to force political victories.

It’s in politicians’ interests to support medical marijuana – after all, it’s one of the few issues Republican and Democrat voters largely agree on!

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