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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Yesterday evening, the Texas State House of Representatives approved SB 339 with a vote of 96-34. The bill seeks to allow patients with intractable epilepsy to access cannabis oil containing high levels of cannabidiol, or CBD, and only trace levels of THC.
On a certain level, the legislature should be commended for acknowledging the medical value of marijuana, and it is an historic vote in that sense.
Unfortunately, SB 339, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler), is extremely unlikely to provide patients with relief because it requires doctors to engage in conduct that is prohibited by federal law. SB 339 previously passed the Senate (26-5) on May 7.
SB 339 requires doctors to “prescribe” marijuana to patients, which exposes doctors to federal criminal sanctions and the risk of losing their DEA registration to prescribe any controlled substances.
The bill also leaves behind Texas patients suffering from debilitating conditions like PTSD, cancer, and multiple sclerosis, for which medical marijuana has been found to have significant medical benefits.
But it isn’t all bad. Even if doctors are unwilling to “prescribe” marijuana, starting the implementation process will ensure a system of safe access is ready to go when the legislature meets in 2017 — at which point it can fix the flaw and expand access to patients with other serious conditions.
In April, SB 162, introduced by Sen. Arthur Orr, passed the Alabama Senate. It now awaits action in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. This bill would declare anyone with five nanograms of THC per milliliter in their blood guilty of driving under the influence — regardless of whether the person was actually impaired!
Although intoxicated driving should not be tolerated, knee jerk ideas like per se limits for THC are unethical, unscientific, and unnecessary. Alabama already criminalizes impaired driving. This bill would unfairly target medical marijuana patients who could have higher levels of THC in their blood without being impaired.
Recent peer-reviewed studies have concluded that low levels of active THC can remain in a person’s system long after the intoxicating effects of THC have worn off — sometimes for several days. THC levels can even increase in a person’s bloodstream days after consuming marijuana, but without the person being impaired. SB 162 would therefore result in individuals who are not impaired to be found guilty of DUI-D.
This week, we began airing a TV ad in Texas featuring Russell Jones, a retired narcotics detective and Texas Hill Country resident. Jones says that people under the influence of marijuana are much less problematic than people under the influence of alcohol, and that “law enforcement officials have more important things to do with their time.” Its primary purpose: to urge lawmakers to support HB 507, which would reduce criminal penalties for marijuana possession in the Lone Star State.