Tax and Regulate

West Virginia Legislators Propose Bill to End Marijuana Prohibition

June 6th, 2016 17 Comments » Matt Simon

The West Virginia Legislature failed to reform its marijuana policies in the 2015-2016 legislative session, primarily because House Speaker Tim Armstead continues to oppose even the most modest, incremental reforms.Seal_of_West_Virginia.svg Fortunately, now that a special session has been called, five delegates have decided this is an opportunity to raise the issue of marijuana legalization. Del. Mike Pushkin (D-Charleston) and a bipartisan group of four co-sponsors have introduced HB 114, which would make marijuana legal on a limited basis in West Virginia.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail published an editorial praising these legislators’ efforts, calling legalization an “excellent idea.” The Gazette-Mail noted that the bill “has no chance” of passing in the special session, but it still presents an important opportunity to raise the issue with elected officials.

If you are a West Virginia resident, please take a moment to contact your delegates and senators today and urge them to consider the benefits of ending marijuana prohibition.

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Medical Marijuana

Illinois Legislature Votes to Extend Medical Cannabis Program

June 2nd, 2016 2 Comments » Chris Lindsey

On Tuesday, the Illinois Senate approved a key bill that would change the sunset date on the state’s medical cannabis program from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2020. The House approved the bill on Monday. The final votes on SB 10 capped off a whirlwind effort by lawmakers in the closing days of the 2016 session.

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Rep. Lou Lang

In addition to extending the program by two and a half years, SB 10 would allow patients with post-traumatic stress disorder or a terminal illness to qualify for medical cannabis. It would also allow doctors to simply state that a patient has a qualifying condition, rather than recommend cannabis. Finally, SB 10 would change the process for petitioning to add medical conditions and modify the composition of the advisory board.

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Sen. Jim Durkin

The vote was over a year in the making, and while the measure passed both chambers by a wide margin, its success was far from certain. Special thanks go to Deputy House Majority Leader Lou Lang and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, who both worked hard to gain critical support from lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner. Thanks also go to the many supporters and patients who reached out to lawmakers.

Once received, Gov. Rauner will have 60 days to sign the bill into law. SB 10 is available here.

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Medical Marijuana

Ohio Campaign Suspends Signature Gathering After Legislature Passes Workable Medical Bill

June 2nd, 2016 1 Comment » Maggie Ellinger-Locke

On May 25, 2016, the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 523, a limited but workable medical marijuana bill that would allow seriously ill patients to use and purchase cannabis. This bill is now heading to the desk of Gov. John Kasich, who could sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature. If you are an Ohio resident, please urge him to sign this compassionate bill into law.

This legislation was a direct response to an initiative MPP funded and sought to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. OH sealThe medical marijuana program established by the bill does not provide for smoking, nor does it allow home cultivation. However, the bill as passed was greatly improved upon from its original version. Unlike some legislatively-approved bills, it includes chronic and severe pain as a qualifying condition.

Due to the legislature passing a workable bill, MPP has suspended its signature collection campaign. We are optimistic that seriously ill patients in Ohio will soon have access to this important treatment option upon their doctors’ recommendations. In conjunction with Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, we plan to continue advocacy efforts to ensure that the State of Ohio lives up to the promises contained in HB 523, while also working to better the program using the ballot initiative proposal as a roadmap for these improvements.

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Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Getting Closer to a Workable Medical Marijuana Program

May 27th, 2016 No Comments Maggie Ellinger-Locke

The Louisiana Legislature continues to repeat its mistakes. For nearly 40 years, flawed legislative drafting has prevented the establishment of a workable medical marijuana program. Yesterday, the House took another step forward by passing S.B. 180, but it failed to fix a key omission.

Last week, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law S.B. 271, legislation intended to fix a poison pill so Louisiana can establish a medical marijuana program (you can read about it here). However, that law did not amend the criminal statutes, meaning the program would provide medical marijuana to seriously ill patients but allow for their prosecution.Seal_of_Louisiana.svg

S.B. 180, Sen. Frank Mills’ companion bill, seeks to close this loophole and does so for patients and caregivers. Unfortunately, the House did not even consider amending the bill to also shield growers, pharmacies, or their workers from criminal liability. While a court could find legal protections implicit for licensees, the omission could jeopardize the entire program.

S.B. 180 is now before the Senate for a concurrence.

When this session ends, Louisiana will be significantly closer to offering relief to seriously ill patients. The regulatory and licensing process will take many months, and final fixes can be made next session if they are needed. Meanwhile, the state can move to lay the structure for the program.

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Medical Marijuana

Connecticut to Expand Medical Marijuana Access to Pediatric Patients

May 27th, 2016 No Comments Becky Dansky
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Gov. Dannel Malloy

Earlier this month, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed HB 5450, which will make changes to Connecticut’s medical marijuana program including to allow certain patients who are under 18 to access medical cannabis. The bill previously passed the House 129 to 3 and the Senate 23 to 1.

To participate in Connecticut’s medical marijuana program, minors will have to have been diagnosed with terminal illness, an irreversible spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, or severe or intractable epilepsy. In addition, they must have a written certification from two doctors — a primary care provider and a specialist. Finally, a parent or guardian must also submit a written statement of consent and attest that they will serve as the minor patient’s primary caregiver.

Connecticut first enacted medical marijuana legislation in 2012, but the law did not allow access for minor patients, many of whom would benefit greatly from access to this safe and effective treatment. Of the 24 states that have effective medical marijuana programs, Connecticut is the last state to exclude younger patients.

The new law will also extend legal protections to nurses who administer medical marijuana to patients in hospitals, and creates a research program. It goes into effect on October 1.

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Uncategorized

Illinois Set to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession

May 20th, 2016 3 Comments » Chris Lindsey

The Illinois House of Representatives voted Wednesday to remove criminal penalties for possession of a personal amount of marijuana in a vote of 64-50. The bill — SB 2228 — will now be sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature.

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Sen. Heather Steans

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, represents a historic change in Illinois. Instead of arresting and jailing people in possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana, those found in possession would simply pay a fine of up to $200. Perhaps more importantly, people would not be stuck with harmful criminal records for the rest of their lives.

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Rep. Kelly Cassidy

This bill is a huge improvement over the current law, which is costly, harmful, and applied unequally around the state. In fact, well over 100 local communities have already lowered criminal penalties. In many respects, SB 2228 simply makes the law more consistent.

Once the governor officially receives the bill, he will have up to 60 days to sign it into law. It reflects changes he requested last year in an amendatory veto, so we are optimistic it will become law.

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Prohibition

New Hampshire Senate Punts Decriminalization Bill to Hostile Conference Committee

May 20th, 2016 1 Comment » Matt Simon

On Thursday, the New Hampshire Senate had a golden opportunity to reduce marijuana possession penalties, but they failed to seize it.2000px-Seal_of_New_Hampshire.svg Rather than passing SB 498, which had been amended by the House to decriminalize possession of one-quarter ounce or less of marijuana for first offenses, the Senate voted to send the bill to a conference committee. This committee will be comprised of three senators and four representatives, who will meet to discuss a possible compromise between the two chambers.

Sadly, the three senators Senate President Chuck Morse named to the committee have all opposed reducing marijuana possession penalties to a violation: Sen. Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith), Sen. Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry), and Sen. Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia). Since a conference committee must unanimously agree on a final bill or else it simply dies, there is little reason for optimism. However, it is still very important for senators to hear from supporters.

If you are a New Hampshire resident, please take a few minutes to find out how your senator voted on the previous decriminalization bill — then call your senator to say thanks or to express your displeasure. 

It’s also important for people to understand that if Gov. Maggie Hassan had supported this bill in any way, the outcome would likely have been very different in the Senate. Fortunately, New Hampshire will be electing a new governor and several new state senators in November — stay tuned for updates as election season approaches!

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Medical Marijuana

Maryland Medical Marijuana Program Facing Delays

May 20th, 2016 1 Comment » Kate Bell

Maryland’s comprehensive medical marijuana law took effect on June 1, 2014. Over 23 months later, no patients have been registered, no ID cards have been issued, and dispensary licensees are not expected to be announced until this fall.

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC), the state agency in charge of establishing Maryland’s medical marijuana program, announced another delay Tuesday in implementation of the medical marijuana law enacted over two years ago.1280px-Flag_of_Maryland.svg While this delay is only a few additional months, it is the latest in a series of delays that will result in medical marijuana not being available until 41 months after the law’s enactment, giving Maryland among the slowest rollouts of a medical marijuana program in the nation.

While we appreciate that the commission is regulating an industry that is new to Maryland, this delay is unreasonable and unnecessary, and every day it continues is another day patients must suffer. Nine states were able to issue patient ID cards in less than one year, with the average being less than seven months.

Although Maryland law requires patients to obtain medical marijuana from a medical dispensary, an ID card would help patients use the existing affirmative defense, protecting them if they are arrested with their medicine. Please ask the commission to issue ID cards NOW and to make sure there are no more delays in getting patients the medicine they need.

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Medical Marijuana

Texas GOP Supports Medical Marijuana

May 16th, 2016 4 Comments » Heather Fazio

Over the weekend in Dallas, the Republican Party of Texas convened for their state convention where, among other business, delegates adopted a platform to express their position on various political issues.

With support from 78% of delegates, the following is now the official position of the Texas GOP: “We call upon the Texas Legislature to improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to prescribed patients.”TX GOP

Thanks to the work of dedicated Republican delegates who support marijuana law reform, the Texas GOP is now officially in support of medical marijuana!

Of course, this confirms what we already knew: Marijuana law reform is not a partisan issue. Texans of all political persuasions acknowledge that cannabis is medicine and support the reform of outdated policies. This move by Republican delegates affirms the integrity of the doctor/patient relationship by declaring that patients should have safe and legal access to medical cannabis if their doctors recommend it, consistent with another section of the platform which states, “Health care decisions…should be between a patient and health care professional and should be protected from government intrusion.”

While this new position does not change current state law, it does demonstrate that even the most conservative Texans agree: Cannabis should be accessible to patients.

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Medical Marijuana

Limited Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Louisiana House

May 13th, 2016 No Comments Maggie Ellinger-Locke

On Wednesday, the Louisiana House of Representatives passed Sen. Fred Mills’ SB 271 in a 62-31 vote, bringing your state one step closer to a workable medical marijuana program. Now the bill returns to the Senate for a concurrence before moving on to Gov. John Bel Edwards — who is supportive — for his signature. You can read a summary of the bill here.Seal_of_Louisiana.svg

However, SB 271 alone will not end the flaws in Louisiana’s current medical marijuana law, which is why Sen. Mills has also introduced SB 180. This bill has passed the Senate and is currently in the House. Should both bills pass, Louisiana becomes the first state in the Deep South to adopt a workable medical marijuana program!

If you are a Louisiana resident, please click here to find out how your lawmakers voted and ask them to show support for a compassionate program. (Once you type in your zip code, the correct email will automatically load based on how your legislators voted.)

The end of the legislative session is drawing near, and we only have a few more weeks to seek reform from lawmakers in Baton Rouge.

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