On Tuesday, Massachusetts patients and advocates urged the Joint Committee on Public Health to pass H. 2065, a bill that would improve Massachusettsâ€™ medical marijuana law. The bill, which is supported by our allies at the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, would protect patients from being discriminated against (with regard to college admissions, professional licensing, employment, and organ transplants, to name a few examples). It would also allow caregivers to provide up to 10 patients, and it would add a reciprocity provision allowing qualifying patients from other states to benefit from the program.
announced Monday that he signed AB258 by Democratic Assemblyman Marc Levine of San Rafael.
Supporters say some patients who use medical marijuana have been denied life-saving organ transplants because they are treated by doctors as drug abusers. Marijuana is often prescribed to cancer and other patients to help with pain and side effects of treatment.
Levine’s legislation ensures that medical marijuana users have the same right to access organ transplants as other patients by prohibiting a hospital or doctor from disqualifying a person solely because of medical marijuana use.
One such patient was Norman Smith, a Los Angeles resident who succumbed to liver cancer after being denied a transplant. You can learn about his story here.
Today at 12:01 a.m., doors openedÂ to qualified medical marijuana patients at Minnesotaâ€™s first dispensary â€”Â Minnesota Medical Solutionsâ€™Â 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 â€” 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.
The first,Â 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 â€”Â it shaves months, and in some cases years, off of cannabis consumersâ€™ sentences. This law is effective immediately.
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 143Â allows Louisiana physicians to prescribe medical marijuana in accordance with FDA and DEA guidelines. Since these federal guidelines donâ€™t exist, this law is not currently operable.Â 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 Louisianaâ€™s marijuana policies.
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 programÂ was not on this list, meaning HB 321 will become law with or without Gov. Igeâ€™s signature!
HB 321 builds on Hawaiiâ€™s medical marijuana program, which was approved by the legislature back in 2000. 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.
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 itâ€™s a relief the House is finally moving, itâ€™s important for legislators to hear their constituents want the bill to be patient-focused.
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 itâ€™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. Itâ€™s also vital that the bill include patients with all the serious symptoms that cannabis can alleviate â€” including severe pain and PTSD.
If you are a Pennsylvania resident, pleaseÂ callÂ orÂ emailÂ your representative and ask them to support strong, patient-focused medical cannabis legislation,Â whether itâ€™s SB 3 or a House bill.
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. Brownâ€™s signature to become law.
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, andÂ opened its doors to qualifying patients on Wednesday. (An appointment isÂ required.)
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.
On Tuesday, Â Gov. Jack Markell (D) signed SB 90Â â€” Rylieâ€™s Law â€” into law. Gov. Markellâ€™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
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.
There is finally good news regarding the implementation of New Hampshireâ€™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 departmentâ€™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 departmentâ€™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 patientsâ€™ needs, and unfortunately, the Attorney Generalâ€™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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"Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use."
"I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol. If people can go into a liquor store and buy a bottle of alcohol and drink it at home legally, then why do we say that the use of this other substance is somehow criminal?"
"The amount of money and of legal energy being given to prosecute hundreds of thousands of Americans who are caught with a few ounces of marijuana in their jeans simply makes no sense - the kindest way to put it. A sterner way to put it is that it is an outrage, an imposition on basic civil liberties and on the reasonable expenditure of social energy."