Commentary: The Changing Landscape of State & Federal Controlled Substance Law: Court Battles Looming

April 17, 2015 Posted by

Seven hundred twenty-two. This is the number of bills that state legislatures are currently considering on five topics related to controlled substances and prescriptions drugs – and it is only April. This figure includes state bills relative to naloxone and Good Samaritan protections, prescription monitoring programs, powdered and crystalline alcohol, changes to controlled substance scheduling, and marijuana: including medicinal marijuana use, marijuana decriminalization, and legalized non-medical marijuana use. These five topics represent some of the most high-priority drug-related issues legislators and policy makers are tackling but it is by no means exhaustive. States are also considering changes to synthetic substance laws, changes to laws that govern prescribing and other aspects of the practice of medicine, prescription drug abuse and changes in sentencing guidelines for controlled substance-related crime to name a few.

The depth of legislative activity on the state level is also trending upward on the federal level. During the current 114th session, the House and Senate are already considering upwards of 20 controlled substance-related bills including the “Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol Act,” which would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and reserve to states the power to regulate marijuana in the same way alcohol is regulated from state to state; the “Compassionate Access Research Expansion and Respect States (CARES) Act,” which amends the Controlled Substances Act by rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance on the federal level; the “Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015,” which authorizes the Attorney General of the United States to award grants to address the national epidemics of heroin use and prescription opioid abuse; and the “National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting (NASPER) Act of 2015,” which reauthorizes the law that provides grants to state prescription monitoring programs to expand and improve those programs.

Full story of state and federal controlled substance law at

14 Attorneys General Ask Congress to Investigate Herbal Supplement Industry

April 16, 2015 Posted by

Fourteen state attorneys general have asked Congress to launch an investigation of the herbal supplement industry, Reuters reports. The Food and Drug Administration should be given more oversight of herbal supplements, the attorneys general said in a letter to the chairmen of congressional subcommittees on product safety and health.

The letter was signed by attorneys general from Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, Northern Mariana Islands, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Last month GNC agreed to institute new testing procedures on its herbal products, after the New York State Attorney General’s office accused the company and other major retailers of selling adulterated and/or mislabeled dietary supplements.

Full story of investigation of herbal supplement industry at

FDA Scientists Question Snus Maker’s Proposal to Modify Cancer Warnings

April 15, 2015 Posted by

At a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hearing this week to consider whether the smokeless tobacco known as “snus” is less harmful than cigarettes, government scientists questioned a proposal to modify cancer warning language on the product’s packaging.

The scientists also said they have concerns about how snus manufacturer Swedish Match studied its product, according to the Associated Press.

Swedish Match has requested that its General brand of snus be certified as “modified risk.” The company wants to be able to claim snus products are addictive but much less risky than smoking. Swedish Match wants to be able to remove one of the required health warning labels about oral cancer. The company has sold snus in the United States since 2007.

Full story of Snus proposal to modify cancer warnings at

46 Percent Approve of Obama’s Decision to Free Drug Offenders: Survey

April 14, 2015 Posted by

A new survey finds 46 percent of Americans say they approve of President Obama’s decision to free 22 prisoners serving long prison terms for non-violent drug offenses.

The Huffington Post reports 23 percent of survey respondents said they disapproved, while 31 percent were undecided.

The HuffPost/YouGov survey found 40 percent of respondents said they think prison sentences given for non-violent drug crimes are usually too harsh, while 14 percent said the sentences are usually too lenient. About one-quarter said the sentences are about right.

Full story of Obama freeing drug offenders at

Proposal Would Increase Medicaid Access to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Benefits

April 13, 2015 Posted by

A rule proposed this week by the Obama Administration would allow Medicaid recipients who receive services through managed care organizations or alternative benefit plans to get the same access to substance abuse and mental health benefits as those provided by private health insurance.

About 70 percent of people covered by Medicaid are in managed care plans, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, health insurance and group health plans must provide the same level of benefits for mental or substance abuse treatment as they provide for medical and surgical care. Under the new proposal, certain provisions of that law would now apply to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Full story of medicaid access mental health benefits at