Oppo research. Never forget. Adult use initiative a go. The bird is a word.
Selected bites of fresh cannabis news sliced from the headlines, with a legislative flavor and sweet Ohio twist. Sources are linked.
What is Opposition Research (Oppo)?
Per Wikipedia, “Opposition research is a necessary component of grassroots activist groups. Research on corporate or political opponents may enable activist groups to target neighborhoods from which to increase their numbers, to refine their focus or ‘target,’ to pinpoint the target’s vulnerabilities, to reveal hidden sources of funding or little-known connections, to investigate scare tactics, and to augment a legislative initiative.”
Why is oppo important?
Cannabis in Ohio currently has four different kinds of legalization campaigns operating simultaneously: federal (CAOA), Ohio initiated statue (ACRAUC), Ohio legislation (HB 382) and the local decriminalization measures. In each case, there are a cadre of prohibitionists that want to turn the clock backwards. A position paper has already been released on the CAOA. (See below)
Who opposes cannabis in Ohio?
“Drug free” coalitions and SAM. The statewide Prevention Action Alliance (PAA) – formerly the Drug Free Action Alliance – created the Statewide Prevention Coalition Association consisting of 60+ community organizations all over the State of Ohio. The PAA is a member of the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America (CADCA), which according to its website, “represents over 5,000 community coalitions” that do community organizing in all 50 states. Also, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM, Inc.) and its founder Kevin Sabet are well known opponents of marijuana and its legalization. Both have opposed such measures, including Ohio Issue 3 in 2015, saying, “… we’ve proven that legalization, even by popular initiative, can be stopped. And we intend to build on this momentum.”
Who started this coalition program?
The drug free movement of the 1990s. The Drug Free Communities (DFC) Support Program was created by the Drug Free Communities Act of 1997 and is administered by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
Who funds these opponents?
They are VERY well funded. Tax exempt under 501(c)(3), CADCA’s annual revenue for 2019 exceeded $10 million and counted PhRMA and Johnson & Johnson among $100,000+ donors. Compensation for CADCA’s CEO totaled almost $700,000. Also a 501(c)(3), the PPA reported $2.7 million in revenue for 2019; $2.5 million came from government grants. In one line item, they paid $1 million to Origo Media for a “Media Campaign,” and in another, $86,275 compensated their executive director. The Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program is funded by the federal government as authorized by Congress. DFC grants for 2020 exceeded $101 million– including $2.5 million for CADCA– and went to 733 DFC coalitions. Despite disbursing these millions, the General Accounting Office in November 2020 issued a report whose title summarizes these opponents, “Drug Misuse: Agencies Have Not Fully Identified How Grants That Can Support Prevention Education Programs Contribute to National Goals.”
Do Ohio groups get funded?
Yes. Senator Rob Portman announced on August 25th that the ONDCP has awarded $875,000 or $125,000 per year each to seven organizations: Crawford Marion Board Of Alcohol Drug Addiction & Mental Health, Family Recovery Center, Inc. (Lisbon, OH), Mckinley Hall (Springfield, OH), Swanton Area Community Coalition, Alcoholism Council Of Butler County, Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Servicesand Knox Public Health. These grants can span five years.
Do the coalitions oppose legalization?
Yes. The ONDCP and by extension the coalitions it funds are mandated by law (21 U.S.C. § 1703) to oppose legalization of Schedule I drugs, aka marijuana. The GAO defended federal intervention in state campaigns in this 2002 letter.
What is their anti-marijuana messaging?
Almost 90% (638) of the drug free coalitions are targeting marijuana. The PAA publishes this “Learn About Marijuana” link on its website. Clearly, the organization does not consider cannabis to be medicine and argues against both voter and legislative initiatives. The PAA also cites the journal article, “Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use,” which contends without proof that marijuana is a gateway drug.
In this Voter Voice Action Center “CADCA Legislative Alert” addressed to Senator Schumer and the CAOA, lies the opposition’s playbook. These are the arguments they will use in the media, on panel discussions and at the ballot box to thwart federal, state and local reform efforts. Cited issues include COVID-19, potency, banking, taxes, driving and law enforcement, among others.
Editor’s Note. Not everything the PPA does is unsupportable.For example, suicide prevention and supporting “individuals who have lost a loved one to overdose” are laudable. But with such deaths rising almost 30% over the last year to an record 93,331, CADCA’s priorities seem skewed: 89% of coalitions target marijuana (no overdose deaths ever), while 79% cover prescription opioids and only 20% heroin/fentanyl.
· Remember the Rainbow Farm. Twenty years ago, on September 4, 2001– just days before 9/11 – pro-marijuana activists Tom Crosslin and Rollie Rohm were shot dead by two of the alleged 50 FBI agents who raided their idyllic Rainbow Farm music venue in rural southwest Michigan. It had hosted Merle Haggard, Tommy Chong and signature drives to legalize. Read more here.
· Never Forget.Twenty years ago, on September 11, 2001, Saudi nationals flew airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, crashing another one into a rural Pennsylvania field. All told, the devastation killed 2,977 people and injured over 6,000. The 911 Commission report published in 2004 found the FBI “unwilling to shift resources” from its traditional “drugs and thugs” targets, essentially “taking its eye off the ball” – ignoring terrorist threats – in favor of prosecuting the drug war.
· House bills= 36 and Senate bills = 14, for a Total of 50. As customary since 1970, the Congress takes a month long recess during August of each year. This shows in cannabis-related legislation. Only one bill was introduced – Senate appropriations bill S. 2604that contained a clause barring the Department of Veterans Affairs from interfering with veterans’ access to medical marijuana.
· Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA).On July 14, 2021, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) released a Discussion Draft of a U.S. Senate bill to fully legalize cannabis. Here is the full language of the bill. Here is a summary of key points of interest. Consistent with the August break, there has been no recent movement on this draft. The 9/1/21 deadline for commenting has passed. Here is what some groups in the cannabis space had to say.
· An Act to Control and Regulate Adult Use Cannabis. This initiated statute and 1,000 initial signatures were filed with the Ohio Attorney General’s office on 7/27/21. On 8/5/21, the OAG rejected the measure, unable to certify that its summary was a “fair and truthful statement.” On 8/13/21, the committee representing the petitioners submitted a revised version, the summary of which the OAG certified on 8/20/21. The Ohio Ballot Board subsequently ruled on 8/30/21 that the measure met the single subject requirement, the final hurdle to permitting the campaign to collect the 132,887 signatures of registeredvoters necessary to place the law before the General Assembly.The statute would enact Chapter 3780 of the Ohio Revised Code to, “authorize and regulate cultivation, processing, sale, purchase, home grow, and use of adult use cannabis by adults at least twenty-one years of age (‘adult use’ consumers).” The website of the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol is https://justlikealcohol.com/. Here is the initiative’s searchable text in PDF format. And hereis one-page bulleted key point list of the proposed statute’s provisions. Those who want to help with the campaign can sign up here.
· H.B. 382. On August 2, 2021, Ohio Representative Casey Weinstein (D-37) introduced HB 382 with the short title, “Allow cultivation, possession of marijuana; levy a tax.” This legislation represents the first time that a legal framework for adult cannabis use has been proposed to the Ohio General Assembly. The bill has 10 cosponsors so far. Here is the bill’s full text. Here is a summary of key points of interest. No recent action on the bill, although Rep. Weinstein did hold a virtual townhallfor the bill on August 27th.
· S.B. 25.Introduced by Senator Nathan H. Manning on 6/23/21. “Regards operating a vehicle under the influence of marihuana.” Assigned to Veterans and Public Safety Committee. No legislative action. Text of the bill is here and its analysis here. Interesting read on Ohio’s current OVI procedures.
· Ohio Rep. Troy Balderson (R-12) Supports! In a letter to a constituent, U.S. Rep. Balderson stated that he supports medical marijuana at the federal level but would leave adult use up to the states. He also supports cannabis banking reform.
· John Cranley for Ohio Governor. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley (D) launched his campaign for Ohio Governor by openly pressing for marijuana legalization as one of three actions he hopes to accomplish during his first four years.
· Bridgeport lawsuit. On 7/16/21, intrepid cannabis activist Bill Schmitt, Jr. filed a lawsuit with the Ohio Supreme Court against the Village of Bridgeport, along with the its mayor, clerk and the Belmont County Board of Elections, for three times failing to accept petitions to decriminalize cannabis within that small Ohio River town. The village filed this response. On 8/24/21, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled against Schmitt, saying that he “failed to file the petition with the village clerk,” even though he videoed his submission and gave the paperwork to an individual identified as the clerk. Schmitt vows to continue his quest and place the decrim initiative on next year’s ballot.
· Sensible Decrim. As of August 1, this productive collaboration between the Sensible Movement Coalition and NORML Appalachia has collected sufficient signatures to place the following cities on the ballot this fall so far: Laurelville,McArthur, Murray City, New Lexington, New Straightsville, and Powhatan Point.
· Advisory Committee Disbanding.The Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee (MMAC) held its final meeting on August 12th. Per section 3796.021 of the Ohio Administrative Code, “The committee shall cease to exist on the date that occurs five years and thirty days after the effective date of this act September 8, 2016.” Believe it or not, it’s been five years. Here is the Committee’s last minutes.
· Recommending Physicians.Presented at the MMAC meeting was the “CTR [Certified to Recommend] Physician Annual Report 2021.” According to the report, CTR physicians number 667. These physicians were surveyed online with 544 participating and providing insights. A map of CTR locations can be found on the website of the Ohio State Medical Board here. A name and address listing in Excel format is here.
· MMAC Updates.Also presented at the MMAC meeting was the State Board of Pharmacy’s “MMAC Updates August 2021” that contains a few interesting statistics. The most recommended condition with 129,455 patients is “Pain – Chronic and Severe or Intractable,” followed by PTSD with 45,136 patients. The conditions with the fewest were are the most recent additions, Terminal Illness and Huntington’s Disease. Dispensaries count 1,466 employees total while cultivation and processing workers number 1,769 and 1,660 respectively. The average price of plant material for 1/10 oz (or 2.83 grams) is $31. Application procedures for new dispensaries are covered as well.
· Wave Televisits Goodbye. Well, not so fast. Deadline extended to 12/31/21. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, physicians were able to issue initial and renewal medical cannabis recommendations online. But Governor DeWine lifted the COVID-19 state of emergency, reverting televisits to the prior ban. Then, the State Medical Board of Ohio switched gears, stating “At its August 11, 2021 meeting, the Medical Board agreed to resume enforcement of its laws and rules requiring in-person patient visits on December 31, 2021.”
· Columbus’ newest dispensary.The Harvest of Ohio medical cannabis dispensary is opening its doors in Clintonville on the north side of the city at 2950 N. High St.
In other news
· The endocannabinoid system: Essential and mysterious. The first lesson in your opposition toolbox is instructing naysayers about the Endocannabinoid System, something this recently published article from the Harvard Medical School does very well.
· CBD not a dietary supplement. The emerging CBD market took a major blow when the FDA recently informed Charlotte’s Web and Irwin Naturals that their full spectrum hemp extracts“may not be marketed as or in a dietary supplement.” Why? GW Pharmaceutical’s Epidiolex, a CBD isolate, came to the market as a pharmaceutical first. The only way around this blockade is H.R. 841.
· Leafly Launch. Per Business Wire, Leafly, one of the world’s leading cannabis discovery marketplaces, announced a new update to its iOS app that will enable iPhone and iPad users to place pickup orders for cannabis in legal states. The Leafly iOS app can be downloaded via the Apple App Store.
· Hot Times Festival. September 10, 11 & 12. Columbus: 51 Douglas Street (Between S. Monroe Avenue and 18th Street) Event is FREE.
· Addiction and Cannabis. Saturday, September 11 @11am-12:30pm. Zoom. In 1987, the AMA and other medical organizations officially termed addiction a disease. It is 2021 and we are deeper in the crisis than ever. Sponsored by the Cleveland School of Cannabis. Register here.
· Second Saturday Salon. September 11 @ 7-8:00 pm. Zoom. Monthly event for Ohio’s progressive community sponsored by the Columbus Free Press. Event is FREE. Check the Free Press Facebook page for the Zoom link.
· Supplementing the Pardon Power: Second Looks and Second Chances. Tuesday, September 21 @ 12:30-2:00 pm. Zoom. This panel will look at supplementing, if not supplanting, the pardon power in performing functions that may be better performed by the courts. Event is FREE and jointly organized by the OSU Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. Register here.
· Cannabis Health, Arts & Music Fair. September 25 @ 2:00-10:00pm. Woodburn Brewing, 2800 Woodburn Avenue, Cincinnati, 45204. Fundraiser for outreach programs to educate and expand access to legal cannabis to patients across Ohio. Sponsored by MedicateOH. Tickets by donation can be purchased here.
· Ohio Marijuana Expo. October 2 @ 10am-6pm. Summit County Fairgrounds, 229 E. Howe Rd Tallmadge, OH 44278. Ohio’s largest marijuana expo catering to consumers, medical marijuana patients, and enthusiasts! Sponsored by Ohio Marijuana Card. Tickets $10 purchased here.
Tales from the Bizarre
· Bird, bird, bird, bird is a word. Sometimes actions speak louder than words. Consider the infamous bird. No, not a canary. Rather, that vertical middle finger aimed aloft from an outstretched arm. Unequivocal. Unambiguous. Words become unnecessary; comprehension is immediate. Such is the case with Peggy Brewington, an elderly woman from Jackson, Tennessee, where a drug taskforce, along with two other state agencies, had nothing better to do than spend a month and thousands of dollars conducting two searches for a substance that is now fully legal in 18 states.
Although she initially replied that she had, “maybe about an ounce,” officers pridefully procured both poundage (20) and plants (40) from her farm and one nearby. In protest of her arrest, Ms. Brewington made the gesture seen around the world: she flipped two birds at the mugshot camera. A limited low CBD/THC law coupled with onerous possession penalties places Tennessee squarely in the cannabis Dark Ages.
Per NORML, cultivation of 40 plants is a felony with 3-15 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Is it the injustice of prohibition, or the ridiculousness of a month-long bust, or the pridefulness of police, or the egregious possible sentence, or the elderly age of the arrestee that gains our sympathy and sparks our outrage? Thank you, Ms. Brewington, for saying what we all feel, because, well, the bird is a powerful word.
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