Medical Marijuana

Urge Delaware Governor to Sign SB 90 Pediatric Patient Bill

June 18th, 2015 2 Comments Morgan Fox
Markell
Gov. Jack Markell

Last week, the Delaware House approved SB 90 by a 40-0 (1 absent) margin! This vote follows unanimous approval by their colleagues in the Senate, sending the bill to Gov. Jack Markell with not one lawmaker having objected.

If you are a Delaware resident, please email Gov. Markell and ask him to sign SB 90 today!

Introduced by Sen. Ernesto Lopez (R), SB 90 would allow doctors to 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 American Academy of Pediatrics now recognizes that medical cannabis may be appropriate for minors in circumstances like those allowed by SB 90, and Gov. Markell should too.

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Medical Marijuana

American Medical Association Urges Protection of Doctors Recommending Medical Marijuana

June 18th, 2015 No Comments Morgan Fox

In a move that is indicative of the increasing acceptance of medical marijuana programs, the American Medical Association released a statement urging more research into marijuana and protection of doctors who recommend it in states where it is legal.

According to U.S. News & World Report:

The association has not yet endorsed marijuana’s use as medicine, but it has urged research into the drug’s potential to treat a wide range of conditions and supported “unfettered” patient-doctor discussions that do not “subject either party to criminal sanctions.”

The association’s new resolution calls for “legislation ensuring or providing immunity against federal prosecution for physicians who certify that a patient has an approved medical condition or recommend cannabis in accordance with their state’s laws.”

Physicians are protected under the 1st Amendment when recommending medical marijuana to their patients, but they cannot legally prescribe it, even in states with effective medical marijuana programs.

The announcement marks a step in the right direction for an organization that has been slow to recognize the success of medical marijuana programs and the relief found by millions of patients around the country.

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition

Medical Marijuana Activist Who Had Son Taken From Her Now Faces Prison Time

June 18th, 2015 No Comments Morgan Fox
Shona Banda
Shona Banda

It was bad enough when she lost custody of her son two months ago, but now Kansas resident Shona Banda is facing up to 30 years in prison for five marijuana-related felonies.

Banda’s troubles began when her 11-year-old son questioned the authenticity of the information being taught to his fellow fifth graders at a “drug education” program at his public school:

As Shona’s son listened to the misinformation given by authorities to his class during the drug education presentation, he courageously spoke up and informed them that the information they were relating was incorrect in regards to cannabis.  He was pulled from class and sent to the office for questioning by authorities without his mother present.

Banda was rightfully worried when her son did not come home from school and called inquiring of his whereabouts. Unbeknownst to her, the police had detained her child at school and questioned him for over an hour without even informing Banda.

Authorities asked to search her house, but Banda did not consent. However, within hours they had obtained a search warrant and found marijuana and related manufacturing devices. She subsequently lost custody of her child and has since been charged with multiple felonies, including possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of drug paraphernalia, and endangering a child.

Banda, who uses medical marijuana to treat her Crohn’s disease, is emphatic that she is a responsible parent:

I spent years raising my children from a couch, not being able to move much,” she told the Post. “I wasn’t able to be a proper mother when I was sick. And now I’m a fantastic mother.

Kansas is not one of the 23 states that allow medical marijuana use. Banda now faces multiple years in prison for attempting to relieve her Crohn’s disease, a serious condition that marijuana has been shown to effectively treat. Had she lived in neighboring Colorado, her actions would have been perfectly legal.

She is proud of her son who had the courage to question the false propaganda that is unfortunately propagated to young children in schools across the country:

…she can’t fault her son for having the courage to question inaccurate statements about cannabis. “For him to have spoken up in class I can’t be upset about because he hears me daily on the phone talking with people, encouraging people to speak up and speak out,” she said. “We did have the talk about how it’s not OK to bring this up in Kansas, because it’s a different state [than Colorado]. It’s very confusing for a child.”

Not just for a child. It has always been outrageous to threaten people with jail or loss of their children based on peaceful behavior such as growing a plant. But with marijuana legal for medical use in nearly two dozen states, including four that also have legalized it for recreational use, the injustice is especially glaring.

Supporters from around the world have donated and signed a petition demanding that law enforcement drop charges against her and that her son be taken out of state protective custody and returned to his mother.

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Medical Marijuana

New York Needs Medical Marijuana Emergency Access Bill

June 11th, 2015 No Comments Morgan Fox

Nearly a year ago, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a medical cannabis bill into law after insisting on significant revisions. As a result, patients with several serious medical conditions were excluded and protections for patients waiting for the wheels of bureaucracy to turn were removed. At least four children who could have benefitted from medical cannabis have died since the bill became law, and no patients have received access to cannabis.

Sen. John Flanagan

If you are a New York resident, please call Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to ask him to call a vote on S.5086 (sponsored by Sen. Griffo), which would expedite access for certain seriously ill patients.

The Assembly has already passed this important bill in a 130-18 vote! But if the Senate does not act this week, patients will be left in the lurch for many more months.

The Department of Health is moving forward slowly with implementation. Forty-three dispensary applications were filed last week. Experiences in other states indicate it could be a year or longer before the first patient obtains medical cannabis from a state-licensed provider in New York. But others — such as Minnesota — have shown that health departments can move far more quickly when they are required to do so.

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Medical Marijuana

U.S. Senate Committee Votes to Prohibit Justice Department From Interfering in State Medical Marijuana Laws

June 11th, 2015 8 Comments Morgan Fox

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a measure 20-10 on Thursday that is intended to prevent the federal government from interfering in state medical marijuana laws.

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Sen. Barbara Mikulski

The amendment, offered by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to the Senate version of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, prohibits the Justice Department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state laws that allow the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana for medical purposes. It mirrors the amendment sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) that was approved last week in the House of Representatives. Passage of identical amendments in the House and Senate typically indicates it will be included in the final spending bill Congress sends to President Obama.

This was the first time the amendment had been offered in the Senate. The House has passed it in each of the last two years, and it was codified in the so-called “CRomnibus” funding measure that became law last year. The amendment is similar to the operative provisions of the CARERS Act, introduced in March by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY).

This is the second time in as many months that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a marijuana policy reform measure. On May 21, the committee voted to allow doctors within the Veterans Affairs system to formally recommend medical marijuana to veterans.

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Medical Marijuana

Texas Governor Signs Limited Medical Marijuana Bill

June 2nd, 2015 No Comments Morgan Fox
Greg_Abbott_by_Gage_Skidmore
Gov. Greg Abbot (PHOTO: Gage Skidmore)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law Monday that recognizes the medical benefits of marijuana. SB 339, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler), is intended to allow patients with intractable seizure conditions to access marijuana extracts containing high levels of cannabidiol (CBD) and only trace levels of THC.

SB 339 requires doctors to “prescribe” low-THC marijuana extracts to patients, which exposes doctors to federal criminal sanctions. By contrast, doctors “recommend” medical marijuana or “certify” patients to use medical marijuana in the 23 states with comprehensive medical marijuana laws and the District of Columbia. Unlike “prescriptions,” recommendations and certifications are federally legal and protected under the First Amendment.

The bill also only allows for extracts with very little THC, and some seizure patients say a greater ratio of THC to CBD is necessary for it to be effective in reducing the frequency and severity of seizures. The bill also fails to allow access to any medical marijuana products for people suffering from other debilitating conditions, such as PTSD, cancer, and multiple sclerosis, for which medical marijuana has been found to have significant medical benefits.

Despite SB 339’s significant limitations, advocates supported Gov. Abbott signing it into law and promptly implementing the program. It has frequently taken as long as two to three years for patients to begin safely accessing medical cannabis preparations after state medical marijuana laws are enacted. First, rules need to be crafted for the operation of dispensaries, then there is an application process, and finally the providers must find locations, build out their facilities, and begin cultivation.

While this low-THC cannabis oil program is very restrictive, the passage of SB 339, Texas’ Compassionate Use Act, is an historic moment that reflects the great work done by advocates. Here is an overview of the program.

The 84th Texas Legislature introduced a record number of marijuana related bills. The results varied — details can be found here — but there can be no doubt that more humane marijuana laws are on the horizon.

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Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Medical Marijuana Bill Making Progress

May 29th, 2015 1 Comment Kate Zawidzki

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.

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Medical Marijuana

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

May 21st, 2015 24 Comments Morgan Fox

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.

Steve_Daines_official_Senate_portrait
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.

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Medical Marijuana

Texas House Passes Flawed CBD Bill

May 19th, 2015 4 Comments Morgan Fox

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.TexasFlagPicture3

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.

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Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

May 12th, 2015 17 Comments Morgan Fox
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PA Senate Chambers

For the second time in a year, the Pennsylvania Senate has overwhelmingly voted to allow seriously ill patients to use and safely access medical cannabis. Gov. Tom Wolf has said he’d sign medical marijuana legislation, so only one piece of the puzzle remains: the House of Representatives.

If you are a Pennsylvania resident, please call your state representative right now to ask him or her to support a compassionate, comprehensive medical marijuana bill.

It will take just a minute of your time to make a call, but it will make a huge impact. Legislators often mistakenly believe that supporting humane marijuana policies is politically risky. This couldn’t be further from the truth — voters overwhelmingly support medical marijuana protections.

SB 3 would allow registered patients to use medical cannabis and to safely access it from regulated dispensaries. To qualify, patients must have an approved medical condition, such as cancer, seizures, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, wasting syndrome, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, or chronic pain. The Senate approved adding vaporization to the bill, but only for cancer, seizures, and PTSD.

The bill is more limited than we would like in some areas, but it is a dramatic improvement over the status quo.

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