Michigan is mourning the loss of a prominent cannabis advocate, an American man’s family is fighting to bring him home from Russian prison, and a bill designed to aid veterans had a tumultuous journey through Congress.
Let’s dive into this week’s cannanews.
Last week, Michigan’s Democratic Party Cannabis Caucus (MPCC) announced the passing of Zahra Abbas at the young at of 35. Abbas was the chair of the MPCC and one of the most prominent voices in Michigan’s cannabis legalization movement.
Abbas’ journey to cannabis activism began after a brain surgery procedure caused her to experience daily seizures. Abbas, like many others, initially turned to prescription drugs for help but ultimately found them ineffective. One day, Abbas decided to give cannabis a try—and the rest was history.
“As soon as I started it, within a few days my seizures stopped,” Abbas told the Metro Times in 2017. The experience converted Abbas, who was once opposed to cannabis, into a full-blown advocate.
Shortly after her first experience with cannabis, Abbas volunteered to gather the signatures needed to put cannabis legalization on Michigan’s 2018 ballot. “I’m doing this because I think more people should have access to cannabis because it helps all people,” Abbas said. Thanks to her help, recreational cannabis legalization made the 2018 ballot and subsequently garnered the approval of Michigan voters.
A memorial for Zahra Abbas took place in Pontiac, Michigan, late last week. U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib held a moment of silence at the gathering. At the event’s conclusion, Tlaib honored Abbas with the following words: “Her heart was full of love for community, and there wasn’t a cause that she did not take on…100%.”
We at Veriheal send our condolences to Zahra Abbas’ family, colleagues, and community.
You’ve probably heard all about Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who was arrested for cannabis possession in Russian back in February. Lost in the coverage of Griner’s unfortunate situation, however, is the other American dealing with very similar circumstances.
Marc Fogel, 60, was a history teacher at the International Baccalaureate—a school for the children of the global elite. Fogel had previously taught around the world but had spent the last 10 years teaching the children of U.S. diplomats in Russia. One fateful day in August 2021, Fogel’s life completely turned upside down.
Fogle was returning to Russia after a U.S. trip. In his luggage, Fogle hid 14 cannabis vape carts and flower. The teacher had never run into any issues bringing cannabis into the country in the past, but this time, something was different.
The Moscow airport, which usually had a minimal security presence, was filled to the brim with law enforcement. Russian police found the cannabis Fogel had stashed in his bag and took him to a cell where the teacher awaited his trial date. In June of this year, Fogel finally received a sentence of 14 years.
Since then, Marc Fogel’s wife Jane has watched anxiously as new information has surfaced about a possible deal to release Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan from Russian prison. While Jane Fogel initially hoped her husband would be added to the deal, her faith has started to waiver. “It seems like the government is working really hard for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan,” Jane Fogel said in an interview last week. “We want them to work for us, too.”
What do you think about the developments around Marc Fogel and Brittney Griner’s cases? Let us know in the comments!
The PACT Act was introduced in the Senate earlier this year as a means to expand healthcare access for veterans with health issues stemming from toxic exposure. Even in our divided times, the bill seemed to be about as bipartisan as could be. An 81-14 vote in the Senate affirmed the bill’s bipartisan appeal, and all signs indicated the bill would have an easy time getting to the White House.
Then, everything changed earlier this week when 25 Senate Republicans unexpectedly flipped their “yes” votes, putting the PACT Act in peril. According to Sen. Pat Toomey, he and his 24 Republican colleagues switched their votes because of “underlying text” in the PACT Act. As John Stewart pointed out in his now-viral video, however, the “underlying text” in question is much ado about nothing.
Thanks to public outcry, the Republicans who initially switched their votes flipped them back. The PACT Act was passed on Aug. 2 by an 86-11 vote. The result, however, should not detract from the fact that something as simple as the PACT Act was still an uphill battle for veterans.
Unfortunately, this kind of adversity is nothing new for veterans. The Office of Veterans Affairs (VA) is notorious for being hesitant to provide any additional mental health services to the veterans it represents. Most notably, the VA has withheld medical cannabis access from veterans—something that has been found to be an effective treatment option for PTSD.
That’s right—Veterans can’t access cannabis even in states where medical use is legal. This is because the VA—which is in charge of giving veterans their benefits—is a federally funded and regulated department. Since cannabis is still federally illegal, veterans who sign up for their state’s medical cannabis program run the risk of losing their benefits. As such, many veterans have had no choice but to purchase their cannabis on the illicit market.
We can only hope for a future where the U.S. treats its veterans with the respect they deserve.
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