In an interview with Rolling Stone yesterday, Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers voiced his support of medical marijuana use to treat pain in the NBA. Currently, the NBA has strict penalties for drug use, which typically lead to suspensions and fines. It was only in 2011 that the NBA stopped testing for marijuana use in the off-season, but now that marijuana is in the limelight, its place in the NBA, as a form of medical treatment for pain, has come into question.
Griffin was asked:
The NFL might let players use medical marijuana to treat pain. If you had a vote, would the NBA do the same?
It doesn’t really affect me, but so many guys would probably benefit from it and not take as many painkillers, which have worse long-term effects. So I would vote yes. I just think it makes sense.
Griffin joins the chorus of other outspoken athletes like Larry Sanders of the Milwaukee Bucks, who said earlier this year, “I believe in marijuana and the medical side of it.”
Like any professional sport, the need for painkillers is a part of the game, and, as Griffin pointed out, the harmful long-term effects of some painkillers makes medical marijuana use an alluring alternative. Even the World Anti-Doping Agency and the UFC have begun by changing their thresholds of permissible amounts of marijuana.
Earlier this month, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed into law SB 174, known as Carly’s Law. This law creates an affirmative defense for patients suffering from debilitating epileptic conditions — or their caregivers — for the possession and use of marijuana extracts that are high in CBD (a component of marijuana). It is a strong endorsement by Alabama lawmakers of the medical benefits of marijuana. Unfortunately, the law suffers from several fatal flaws, rendering it ineffective.
Unfortunately, by being limited to low-THC extracts and patients with epilepsy, SB 174 leaves the vast majority of patients behind. Even patients with epilepsy are extremely unlikely to get relief. Carly’s Law requires a “prescription” for the legal use of medical marijuana. Yet “prescribing” a federally illegal substance may jeopardize a doctor’s federal license. Meanwhile, a “recommendation” is protected under the First Amendment.
By merely providing an affirmative defense, the law won’t protect patients from being arrested and dragged into court. Finally, this law relies on the University of Alabama at Birmingham to implement the medical marijuana program. Unfortunately, based on what we have already experienced in other states, this university hospital-based approach is extremely unlikely to ever get off the ground.
Last Thursday, the Minnesota Senate Committee on Health, Human Services and Housing took testimony on SF 1641, compassionate medical marijuana legislation introduced by Sen. Scott Dibble. Unfortunately, the hearing ran long, so the committee tabled the vote until they reconvene following this week’s spring recess.
Lawmakers will return to St. Paul on April 22, and they could remain in session as little as a few days before ending their work for the year. Medical marijuana legislation is overwhelmingly supported by the public and championed by a diverse and bipartisan group of lawmakers. Just yesterday, Maryland became the 21st state with an effective medical marijuana law.
The medical marijuana bill will need to move quickly once lawmakers return from the break.
Yesterday morning, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law both the medical marijuana bill and the decriminalization bill, making Maryland the 21st state with an effective medical marijuana program, and the 18th state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The medical marijuana bill expands a program that, while established last year, was unable to get off the ground. The previous law relied on the participation of teaching hospitals, which understandably did not want to be involved with a substance that is still federally illegal. The law signed today will allow registered cultivators to grow medical marijuana and up to 15 licensed cultivators to provide the medicine to patients and dispensaries. This new law will finally provide real access to seriously ill Marylanders.
The decriminalization law removes the criminal penalties for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, and replaces them with a civil fine of up to $100 for a first offense, up to $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for subsequent offenses. Third-time offenders and individuals under 21 years of age will be required to undergo a clinical assessment for substance abuse disorder and a drug education program. The measurewill officially go into effect on October 1.
This is incredible progress, but our work is not done yet. A September 2013 poll found that 53% of Marylanders support legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and up, and taxing and regulating it like alcohol.
Florida Democrats are pushing for a constitutional amendment that would put medical marijuana on the state’s ballot this November. If the initiative passes, Florida would become the first southern state to legalize some form of marijuana usage. Recent Battleground polls have shown widespread support, especially among young voters.
In a previous MPP blog post, we discussed how about 70% of voters (nationwide) would be more likely to vote this fall if marijuana was on the ballot, and how midterm elections traditionally have lower voter turnout, especially with young voters and liberals. In the 2012 elections, Washington and Colorado both saw significant spikes in voter turnout, possibly due to marijuana being on the ballot. If Florida follows suit, it will be a testament to marijuana’s spillover effect.
Florida Democrats are hoping it “could have a marginal impact,” which doesn’t sound like much, but “a marginal impact in Florida could be the difference between winning and losing,” according to Steve Schale, a Democratic consultant who managed Obama’s Florida campaign in 2008.
A recent Republican victory in a special House election last month typified the Democrats’ turnout problem. The St. Petersburg-area district has 2.4 percent more registered Republicans than Democrats, but GOP voters outnumbered Democrats by eight percentage points, according to election results.