Today, Oklahomans for Health submitted an application for petition with Oklahoma Secretary of State, Chris Benge, which proposes to add a question to the November ballot asking whether or not Oklahomans should legalize medical marijuana for serious conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.
The initiative would call for the reclassification of marijuana as an herbal drug, which would be regulated by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. It would also create licensing and regulatory rules for cultivation and distribution through dispensaries. Patients wanting to use medical marijuana would need to pay a $125 application fee for a medical marijuana card and have an Oklahoma board-certified physician provide a recommendation.
The proposed initiative comes at a time when support for medical marijuana is growing in the state with a recent poll showing 71% approval rate for decriminalizing medical marijuana. A rally was held at the State Capital in February, where parents of epileptic children came to talk to their representatives. Even Josh Stanley of Strains of Hope, featured on WEEDS by Sanjay Gupta, showed up to support Oklahomans in their plight.
Although Oklahoma has some of the harshest marijuana laws, Chip Paul, Chairman of Oklahomans for Health, believes the “language in this initiative…should be a very easy thing for the state of Oklahoma to manage.”
Last week, the Mississippi General Assembly overwhelminglypassedHB 1231, which would legalize certain, very limited medical marijuana extracts for patients suffering from seizure disorders. While this bill is a strong endorsement of the medical benefits of marijuana by the Mississippi legislature, it is extremely limited and does not even create a realistic way for patients to obtain the extracts.
The bill, approved by the House 112-6 and the Senate 49-0, now heads to Gov. Phil Bryant, who is expected to sign it. If enacted, it would apply only to patients suffering from epileptic conditions, leaving the vast majority of patients behind. Furthermore, patients would only be able to use marijuana extracts that contain no more than 0.5% THC and more than 15% CBD.
The bill also only allows three specific medical research centers — the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi, the Department of Pharmacy Services at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station at Mississippi State University — to produce or possess the marijuana extracts for research. Given that federal law does not allow medical marijuana, it is extremely unlikely that universities will produce marijuana.
A battle is underway in Minnesota, where Gov. Mark Dayton is standing in the way of an otherwise widely supported medical marijuana bill because he does not want to upset his friends in law enforcement.
The governor is under intense pressure to support the bill, but time is running out in the legislative session, so we are cranking up the heat with an aggressive TV ad that will begin airing tonight throughout Minnesota. It features St. Paul mom Angela Garin and her five-year-old son, Paxton — who suffers from a rare condition that causes hundreds of seizures per day — calling on Gov. Dayton to stop blocking the legislation. It should make waves because the governor is currently under fire in the media fortelling patients and parents like Angela to just find medical marijuana on the street!
Last Tuesday, all eight members of the Illinois Senate Public Health Committee who were present at the public hearing voted to advance a bill that would add seizure conditions to the list of qualifying medical conditions to the state medical cannabis program. The bill, SB 2636, sponsored by Sen. Iris Martinez, would allow access to both adults and minors for this serious condition.
Unlike the 19 other states with workable medical marijuana laws, Illinois currently prohibits physicians from recommending the use of medical marijuana for seriously ill patients based on a seizure condition. It’s time for Illinois to stop leaving behind people with seizure conditions and the families that support them. Seizure patients and the parents of children with the condition should have safe access to a medicine that is safer than many pharmaceutical medications.
The 18-year-old question as to whether or not legalizing medical marijuana causes an increase in crime seems to be answered in a recent study by a team of researchers from The University of Texas at Dallas this week. The results did not indicate a “crime exacerbating effect” of medical marijuana on any of the Part I offenses, which (according to the FBI) include homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft.
Alternatively, states with medical marijuana laws showed a reduction in homicide and assault rates. This is congruent to other studies by The National Academy of Sciences that found THC — the active ingredient in pot — actually causes a decrease in “aggressive and violent behavior” in chronic marijuana users.
“The findings on the relationship between violence and marijuana use are mixed and much of the evidence points toward reductions in violent behavior for those who smoke marijuana,” Robert Morris, the study’s lead author, said in a recent interview with the Huffington Post. “In fact, researchers have suggested that any increase in criminality resulting from marijuana use may be explained by its illegality, rather than from the substance itself.”
These findings run counter to arguments that suggest making marijuana legal for medical purposes poses a danger to public health, in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes.