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 1 Comment 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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Prohibition

Louisiana Senate Voting Today on Bill Reducing Marijuana Possession Penalties

June 8th, 2015 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

The Louisiana Senate will debate HB 149 today, legislation approved by the House that would reduce penalties for marijuana possession. This bill is almost identical to a Senate bill that was approved 27-12 late last month. state_seal_color3Although penalties would still be staggering for possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol, HB 149 is an important step forward — it could shave months, if not years, off of marijuana consumers’ sentences.

The bill will be voted on TODAY, so email your senator NOW and ask him or her to vote “yes” on HB 149.

While first offense marijuana possession would remain a misdemeanor, HB 149 greatly reduces the fine and potential jail time for possession of 14 grams or less of marijuana — 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 also significantly reduces the sentences for second and subsequent marijuana possession charges.

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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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Prohibition

Connecticut Steadily Expunging Past Marijuana Convictions

June 1st, 2015 4 Comments Morgan Fox

ConnecticutFlag_of_Connecticut.svg has been removing prior marijuana convictions for the vast majority of people who apply since a recent state Supreme Court decision.

Associated Press reports:

Connecticut judges have granted more than 80 percent of requests to erase marijuana possession convictions since the state decriminalized small amounts of pot in 2011, state Judicial Branch records show.

Superior Court judges have approved 32 of 39 petitions to erase convictions for marijuana possession in the past four years, after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and state lawmakers downgraded possession of less than a half-ounce of pot from a misdemeanor with potential jail time to a violation akin to a parking ticket, with fines ranging from $150 for a first offense to up to $500 for subsequent offenses.

Although the number of erasures is small compared with the thousands of arrests for marijuana possession in Connecticut over the years, defense lawyers expect many more people to apply as word spreads about a recent state Supreme Court decision. The court ruled in March that people have the right to get their convictions erased.

Similar efforts to remove past convictions are underway throughout the country, but little progress has been made so far.

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General

Delaware House Could Vote on Decriminalization This Week

June 1st, 2015 No Comments Kate Zawidzki
helene_keeley
Rep. Helene Keeley

The Delaware State House of Representatives returns to Dover this week, and we are hopeful it will take up HB 39 — the bill to replace Delaware’s criminal penalty for marijuana possession with a $100 civil fine. If you are a Delaware resident, please email your state representative in support of this sensible bill today!

Introduced by Rep. Helene Keeley, HB 39 would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine with no possibility of jail. Under current Delaware law, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $575 fine and up to three months in jail. More than two-thirds of Delaware voters support this policy.

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Prohibition

Wisconsin Could Remove Penalties for Simple Possession

June 1st, 2015 1 Comment Kate Zawidzki
Barnes 1003
Rep. Mandela Barnes

Wisconsin will stop punishing possession of a modest amount of marijuana if state Rep. Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee) and state Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) have anything to say about it. Along with 14 of their colleagues, they have introduced legislation that would remove all penalties for possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana.

If you are a Wisconsin residentplease email your lawmakers in Madison and ask them to support this modest reform today!

Possessing one ounce or less of marijuana in Wisconsin is currently classified as a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000. A subsequent possession charge could result in a felony conviction for simply having a small amount of a substance that is safer than alcohol. AB 246/SB 167 would repeal these draconian penalties that carry with them a host of collateral consequences associated with having a criminal record.

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Prohibition

New Vermont Law Allows Expungement of Misdemeanor Marijuana Records

June 1st, 2015 No Comments Kate Zawidzki
JBenning
Sen. Joe Benning

In addition to Vermont‘s substantial progress on marijuana regulation this year, state legislators quietly passed a bill that will make a big difference in the lives of people who have been convicted of misdemeanors for marijuana possession. Sponsored by Senator Joe Benning (R-Lyndonville), S. 115 allows Vermonters who have been convicted of crimes for “conduct [that] is no longer prohibited by law or designated as a criminal offense” to have their records expunged after one year (in most cases).

Gov. Peter Shumlin signed S. 115 into law May 26. It took effect upon passage. As a result, individuals who were convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession before Vermont’s decriminalization law passed in 2013 may now petition the court to have their record expunged.

Please share this excellent news with your friends and family, or with anybody you know who has been convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession.

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