Louisiana Medical Marijuana Bill Making Progress

Wednesday afternoon, the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee approved a bill that is intended to stop the cruel criminalization of seriously ill patients who benefit from medical marijuana. The bill, which has already passed the Senate with a 22-13 vote, now moves to the full House for a vote. If you are a Louisiana residentplease take a moment today to write your representative in support of this compassionate bill — SB 143.

Fred Mills Jr Louisiana
Sen. Fred Mills, Jr.

SB 143, filed by Sen. Fred Mills, Jr. (R), would amend a 1991 law that allows Louisiana’s physicians to prescribe medical marijuana in accordance with FDA and DEA guidelines. Since these guidelines don’t exist, this law has never been operable. Sen. Mills’ proposal requires the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy to develop regulations governing distribution of medical marijuana.

Fortunately, the Health and Welfare Committee replaced the requirement that physicians “prescribe” medical marijuana with one stating that they “recommend” its use. This change was necessary as no physician — even in medical marijuana states — can “prescribe” medical marijuana because of federal law. While this is an important improvement, we are still concerned that the proposed program relies on pharmacies to dispense medical marijuana, which they are very unlikely to do because they are regulated by the DEA and distributing marijuana is a federal crime.

The Associated Press reports that Gov. Bobby Jindal has “no concerns” about the bill.

New Hampshire Senate Expected to Vote on Decriminalization Next Thursday

On Tuesday, the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-1 to recommend against passage of HB 618, Rep. Adam Schroadter’s sensible bill that would decriminalize possession of one-half ounce or less of marijuana.

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Rep. Adam Schroadter

This isn’t good news, but there is still hope for HB 618. In fact, one senator who voted “no” is already working to negotiate a compromise amendment that will be able to earn majority support when the bill is considered on the Senate floor. The full Senate is expected to vote on HB 618 next Thursday, June 5.

Maryland Governor Vetoes Paraphernalia Decriminalization Bill

Larry Hogan
Gov. Larry Hogan (PHOTO: Washington Post)

Late Friday afternoon, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed SB 517 — a common-sense bill that would decriminalize marijuana paraphernalia. His veto is deeply disappointing. If we can garner votes from three-fifths of the House and three-fifths of the Senate, his veto will be overridden and the measure will become law.

If you are a Maryland resident, please email your state delegate(s) and senator today and urge them to override Gov. Hogan’s veto.

The Maryland General Assembly passed SB 517 to fix the current legal absurdity that makes possessing a small amount of marijuana a civil citation (like a traffic violation), but leaves possessing the container that marijuana is in a criminal violation. Without this fix, the door is left open to selective, biased enforcement, and Maryland would continue to divert valuable law enforcement time and effort that would be better spent protecting our communities from violent crime.

An override is within reach, but won’t be easy. It is crucial lawmakers hear their constituents want them to vote “yes” on an override!

Illinois Senate Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

Illinois state Rep. Kelly Cassidy’s bill, which would replace criminal penalties for the possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana with a civil fine, passed the Illinois Senate today on a vote of 37-19. The bill will soon be sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk for his signature. While he has not signaled any opposition to the measure, it is critical that he hear from Illinoisans in support of this historic bill.

If you are an Illinois resident, please contact the governor’s office today and ask him to sign HB 218 into law.

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Gov. Bruce Rauner

The bill does several important things. First, it removes the possibility of arrest and jail for those in possession of a small amount of marijuana. It also prevents harming a person’s criminal record, which could limit future job prospects as well as housing and educational options. And because many communities have already removed criminal penalties for possession while others have not, the bill helps ensure that all residents in Illinois will be treated similarly under the law, regardless of where they live.

U.S. Senate Committee Approves Measure That Would Allow Veterans Affairs Physicians to Recommend Medical Marijuana

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a measure 18-12 Thursday that would allow Veterans Affairs physicians to recommend medical marijuana to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, serious injuries, and other debilitating conditions.

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Sen. Steve Daines

The amendment, offered by Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to the Senate version of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, would rescind a portion of a 2009 directive prohibiting VA doctors from recommending medical marijuana, even in states that have made it legal.

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Sen. Jeff Merkley

The amendment must now be reconciled with the House version of the bill. The House narrowly defeated a similar amendment 210-213 on April 30. A similar measure was defeated 195-222 in 2014.

According to MPP’s Dan Riffle:

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers came together and passed broadly supported marijuana policy reform. This is exactly how most Americans want Congress to handle this issue. Hopefully we are reaching a point at which it is becoming the norm, rather than the exception. The pace at which support appears to be growing in the Senate is particularly encouraging.

Doctors should never be prohibited from helping their patients obtain the best possible medical treatment. Many veterans are finding that medical marijuana is the most effective treatment for PTSD and other service-related medical conditions. Finally, Congress is working to remove barriers to accessing it rather than building them.

Marijuana Policy Project