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 18 Comments Morgan Fox
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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
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(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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Medical Marijuana

Urge Delaware Governor to Sign SB 90 Pediatric Patient Bill

June 18th, 2015 2 Comments Morgan Fox
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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 9 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
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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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