Medical Marijuana

First Minnesota Dispensary Open Today

July 1st, 2015 No Comments Robert Capecchi

Today at 12:01 a.m., doors opened to qualified medical marijuana patients at Minnesota’s first dispensary — Minnesota Medical Solutions’ Minneapolis location. The July 1 opening date adheres strictly to the implementation timeline proscribed by lawmakers last spring. To say that MPP is thrilled that some seriously ill Minnesotans finally have legal access to medical marijuana products recommended by their doctors is an understatement. That said, we know there is plenty of work still to do.

While the Minnesota medical cannabis law will offer relief to some seriously ill Minnesotans, it offers no relief to others suffering unnecessarily. For instance, patients suffering from intractable pain are still excluded — though the health department is required to consider whether to recommend adding that condition.

Even for those patients with qualifying conditions, severe limits on the number of dispensing locations and unnecessary health care practitioner participation requirements will make it difficult to benefit from the program. We are hopeful that the program will prove helpful for those who do qualify and that lawmakers will compassionately expand it in the near future.

For more information on the medical marijuana program, visit the Office of Medical Cannabis’s website.

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition

Louisiana Gov. Signs Two Improvements to Marijuana Laws

July 1st, 2015 No Comments Brendan Valentine

Earlier this week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed two positive marijuana-related bills into law — a penalty reduction bill and a flawed medical marijuana program.

The first, HB 149, significantly reduces penalties for marijuana possession! Although penalties will still be harsh for possessing a substance safer than alcohol, HB 149 is an important step forward — it shaves months, and in some cases years, off of cannabis consumers’ sentences. This law is effective immediately.

220px-Bobby_Jindal,_official_109th_Congressional_photo
Gov. Bobby Jindal

While first offense marijuana possession remains a misdemeanor, the penalty for possessing 14 grams or less is now far less severe than it was. The maximum jail sentence is reduced from six months to 15 days while the maximum fine is reduced from $500 to $300. HB 149 also significantly reduces the sentences for second and subsequent marijuana possession charges.

Gov. Jindal also signed into law a bill that could, in the future, support a compassionate medical marijuana program for Louisianans, although it will not allow patients to use the medicine in smokable form.

SB 143 allows Louisiana physicians to prescribe medical marijuana in accordance with FDA and DEA guidelines. Since these federal guidelines don’t exist, this law is not currently operable. Physicians risk losing their prescription license if they use it to prescribe marijuana. But hope remains for future regulatory improvement. Overall, both new laws signed by Gov. Jindal represent improvements for Louisiana’s marijuana policies.

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Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Dispensary Legislation Will Become Law

July 1st, 2015 No Comments Robert Capecchi

On Monday, June 29, Hawaii Gov. David Ige released his list of bills that he intends to veto. Thankfully, legislation creating a medical marijuana distribution program was not on this list, meaning HB 321 will become law with or without Gov. Ige’s signature!

HB 321 builds on Hawaii’s medical marijuana program, which was approved by the legislature back in 2000.2000px-Seal_of_the_State_of_Hawaii.svg Since that time, most state medical marijuana programs have either been written to include a regulated system for patients to obtain their medicine, or have been amended to so. In fact, enactment of HB 321 will mean that only two of the 23 states with medical marijuana programs will fail to include regulated access to medicine the seriously ill are able to use.

HB 321 will initially allow eight medical cannabis businesses (three on Oahu, two each on Big Island and Maui, and one on Kauai) with two dispensing locations each. Starting in 2017, the state health department will be allowed to issue more licenses as needed. Each dispensary license will allow the holder to have two cultivation sites with up to 3,000 plants each, as well as two dispensing locations that must be separate from the cultivation locations.

This good news would not have been possible without the wonderful work by our allies at Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, the Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii, and individuals across the state who reached out to lawmakers to ensure passage.

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Medical Marijuana

Comprehensive Medical Marijuana Bill Still Possible in Pennsylvania

July 1st, 2015 No Comments Becky Dansky

Just a few weeks ago, medical cannabis legislation seemed hopelessly stalled in the Pennsylvania House. Thanks to the efforts of advocates, Rep. Nick Miccarelli, and overwhelming bipartisan support in the House, there is strong momentum for passage of effective medical marijuana legislation. While it’s a relief the House is finally moving, it’s important for legislators to hear their constituents want the bill to be patient-focused.

Rep. Nick Miccarelli

As events unfold and legislative strategies are explored, it is important that representatives understand the key components to creating the best possible legislation for seriously ill Pennsylvanians. The most effective legislation, whether it’s SB 3 or a House bill, will allow doctors and patients to decide together from the broadest range of possible strains and will ensure that no matter where a patient lives in the state he or she will have access to these treatments. It’s also vital that the bill include patients with all the serious symptoms that cannabis can alleviate — including severe pain and PTSD.

If you are a Pennsylvania resident, please call or email your representative and ask them to support strong, patient-focused medical cannabis legislation, whether it’s SB 3 or a House bill.

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Medical Marijuana

California Organ Transplant Non-Discrimination Bill for Medical Marijuana Patients Moves Forward

June 29th, 2015 No Comments Morgan Fox

AB 258 passed both the California Assembly and the Senate by overwhelming margins, sending the bill to Gov. Brown

for his signature. This compassionate bill would prohibit hospitals from denying medical marijuana patients organ transplants simply because of their choice of medicine. Hospitals, clinics, and members of the medical community who do not support medical marijuana should not be able to kick people who are already down by denying them lifesaving treatment.

The California Assembly passed AB 258 with a 62-12 vote, and earlier this week the Senate passed the bill with only one vote in opposition. Clearly, both Californians and their legislators believe in protecting patients from discrimination based on their choice of medical treatment. The bill now needs only Gov. Brown’s signature to become law.

If you are a California resident, please take a moment to ask Gov. Brown to sign AB 258 when it reaches his desk.

 

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Medical Marijuana

First Massachusetts Dispensary Now Open

June 25th, 2015 5 Comments Morgan Fox

Patients who have been desperately waiting for a dispensary to open in Massachusetts will finally have some good news to celebrate this week. A dispensary in Salem has received a waiver from the state to begin operating, and opened its doors to qualifying patients on Wednesday. (An appointment is required.)

According to the Department of Health’s website, three other dispensaries have received approval to begin cultivating marijuana. These three dispensaries plan to locate their retail operations in Northampton, Brockton, and Ayer.patient-front MA MMJ card

Only 15 dispensary applicants were selected by the department in 2014, but the state announced in June that it was overhauling the dispensary selection process and scrapping its widely criticized scoring system for judging dispensary applicants. The department says that from now on, applications will be considered on a rolling basis, and applicants that meet the state’s standards will be approved. Question 3, which was approved by 63% of voters in November 2012, envisioned up to 35 dispensaries for the Bay State.

The delays have been very frustrating for patients, but hopefully this is a sign that Massachusetts is finally getting its act together and implementing the medical marijuana law in an appropriate manner.

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Medical Marijuana

Gov. Markell Signs Bill Allowing Seriously Ill Minors to Access Medical Marijuana Program

June 24th, 2015 1 Comment Morgan Fox

On Tuesday,  Gov. Jack Markell (D) signed SB 90 — Rylie’s Law — into law. Gov. Markell’s approval is yet another sign of Delaware lawmakers understanding the benefits that medical marijuana holds for seriously ill patients of all ages. Not one lawmaker opposed this new law

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Sen. Ernesto Lopez

Introduced by Sen. Ernesto Lopez (R), SB 90 is now Delaware law. Doctors may now recommend medical marijuana oils to certain patients under the age of 18. To qualify, the young patients must suffer from intractable epilepsy or a medical condition that has not responded to other treatments and that involves wasting, intractable nausea, or severe, painful, and persistent muscle spasms. This compassionate proposal recognizes the sad truth that kids face serious illnesses, too, and it gives doctors one more legal option to help them find relief.

The governor and the General Assembly have joined respected organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics in recognizing that medical cannabis may be appropriate for minors in certain circumstances. The compassion shown by lawmakers from across the state in enacting this bill means many seriously ill children and their families have one more legal option to help ease their symptoms. But it would not have been possible without the compassion of all Delawareans who wrote to their elected officials in support of this bill.

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Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Finally Licensing Dispensaries

June 18th, 2015 4 Comments Morgan Fox

There is finally good news regarding the implementation of New Hampshire’s medical marijuana law. Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that three applicants have been approved to move forward with their plans to open dispensaries in four geographic areas (one applicant was granted the ability to operate two dispensaries, while the two others may operate one dispensary each).

The announcement came more than four months after the department’s January 23 deadline. The delay was very disappointing, but late is obviously better than never. The details, including the names of the three approved entities, are available here at the department’s website.

This news, while positive, does not necessarily mean that safe, state-legal access for patients is right around the corner. The approved applicants may face unexpected obstacles and delays before they are able to serve patients’ needs, and unfortunately, the Attorney General’s office has advised the state to refrain from issuing ID cards to patients until the first dispensary is nearly ready to open.

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Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Governor Will Sign Marijuana Reform Bills

June 18th, 2015 4 Comments Morgan Fox
220px-Bobby_Jindal,_official_109th_Congressional_photo
Gov. Bobby Jindal

The Louisiana Legislature has sent Gov. Bobby Jindal two bills proposing positive reforms to Louisiana’s marijuana policies! While one bill is largely symbolic, the other will help dial back some of the country’s harshest penalties for marijuana possession.

Gov. Jindal said this week that he will sign both bills into law:

“We are going to sign both bills. They’ve made it through the process. They are going to make to my desk in the next few days,” Jindal told The Des Moines Register.

SB 143 amends a 1991 law allowing Louisiana’s physicians to prescribe medical marijuana in certain circumstances. Unfortunately, this prescription requirement was not removed and because no physician can prescribe marijuana without risking losing their license to prescribe other medications (or worse), we are concerned that this proposal will not create a workable program. However, we are pleased that the House and Senate recognized the medical value of marijuana, and are hopeful Gov. Jindal will too.

Meanwhile, HB 149 chips away at Louisiana’s draconian penalties for marijuana possession by reducing the fine and potential jail time for possession of 14 grams or less of marijuana. For a first offense, the maximum jail sentence would be reduced from six months to 15 days, while the fine would be reduced from up to $500 to up to $300. HB 149 would also significantly reduce the sentences for second and subsequent marijuana possession charges. While still harsh, this is a good step toward a more rational approach.

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Medical Marijuana

Pressure Mounts for Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Bill

June 18th, 2015 No Comments Morgan Fox
Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 1.53.19 PM
(Image: WFMZ)

Last Thursday, former TV talk show host Montel Williams joined seriously ill Pennsylvanians and their loved ones in making an emotional plea for the House to follow the Senate’s lead and approve medical cannabis legislation.

Now, it’s time to raise YOUR voice. If you are a Pennsylvania resident, please call or email your representative today to ask the House to stop playing politics with patients’ lives.

House Health Committee Chair Matthew Baker has made it clear he has no plans to release SB 3 from his committee. Even if he doesn’t relent, there are several other ways to get a bill to a floor vote without passing through the Health Committee.

Pennsylvania patients have waited far too long for relief. Since the state began seriously considering medical cannabis legislation in 2009, 11 more states have enacted similar bills, bringing the number of compassionate states to 23. Yet Pennsylvania patients continue to needlessly suffer, risk arrest and prosecution, or be forced to uproot and move across the country to a more compassionate state.

To hear some of the heartbreaking stories of patients who are counting on the House to act, you can watch CBS 21’s entire 90-minute town hall here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

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