Mississippi Assembly Passes Limited Medical Marijuana Bill

Last week, the Mississippi General Assembly overwhelmingly passed HB 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.

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Gov. Phil Bryant

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.

Minnesota Patients Air TV Ad Attacking Gov. Dayton for Opposing Medical 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!

Illinois Bill to Add Seizure Conditions to Medical Marijuana Program Advances

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Sen. Iris Martinez

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.

New Jersey Marijuana Prosecutors Reverse Course, Say It’s Time to Legalize

The New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association now officially supports legalizing the possession of marijuana, which is quite an unlikely source of support, since they are the principle group who prosecutes marijuana users in the state.

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Jon-Henry Barr

“Each week, New Jersey police officers arrest hundreds of citizens for the disorderly persons offense of possession of under 50 grams of marijuana,” said Jon-Henry Barr, president of the board of trustees of the Municipal Prosecutors Association. “Those arrested include professionals and many people who would never think of committing any type of serious, victim-related crime.”

In an interview with Kathleen Hopkins from the Asbury Park Press, Barr enumerated the reasons why a strong majority (seven out of ten) of the association wants to support the legalization of marijuana:

• Requests by prosecutors to analyze samples of marijuana are overwhelming the state’s drug-testing laboratories, sometimes leading to dismissals of cases when defendants invoke their rights to speedy trials;

• Studies show that marijuana is less addictive than alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine;

• Marijuana is easier for high school students to obtain than alcohol because the sale of alcohol is strictly regulated;

• Very few of the thousands of DWI cases prosecuted annually are for driving under the influence of marijuana;

• Statistics show that African Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than white people are, but there is no evidence to show there is disproportionately more marijuana use in minority communities;

• The state loses money by not collecting sales tax on marijuana, while drug dealers profit.

This much-needed support from the New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association comes at a pivotal time in the state’s struggle to define its stance on marijuana. Two bills have recently been introduced; one bill permits citizens to carry an ounce or less of marijuana, while the other sets up a tax-and-regulate system.

Study Finds Legalization of Medical Marijuana Does Not Increase Crime, May Decrease Violent Crime

The 18-year-old question as to whether or not legalizing medical downwardmarijuana 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.

Marijuana Policy Project