Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Governor Signs Dispensary and Civil Protection Legislation

July 16th, 2015 2 Comments Robert Capecchi

On Tuesday, two key medical marijuana bills were signed into law by Hawaii Gov. David Ige. While we already knew the bills would not be vetoed, we are thrilled the governor decided to personally support these compassionate proposals by signing them into law instead of allowing them to become law without his signature.

Governor_David_Ige
Gov. David Ige

One of the bills, HB 321, creates a medical marijuana dispensary system. The law allows, initially, eight medical cannabis businesses (three on Oahu, two each on Big Island and Maui, and one on Kauai) with two dispensing locations each. Starting in 2017, the health department will be allowed to issue more licenses as needed. Each dispensary license will allow the holder to have two cultivation sites with up to 3,000 plants each as well as two dispensing locations that must be separate from the cultivation locations.

The other bill, SB 1291, strengthens existing civil protections for medical marijuana patients and adds new protections. Landlords, schools, and courts may no longer discriminate against medical marijuana patients!

Neither of these good new laws would have been possible without the wonderful work by our allies at Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii and the Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii.

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Tax and Regulate

Marijuana Taxes for Colorado Schools Set Record

July 16th, 2015 No Comments Morgan Fox

A portion of the taxes collected from adult retail marijuana sales in Colorado is earmarked for schools under the law, and the amount collected so far this year is already more than was collected in all of 2014.

The Denver Post reports:

In the first five months of 2015, the state’s pot-funded excise tax that collects money earmarked for school construction capital brought in more money than it did in all of 2014. While that specific school tax’s 2015 take may not reach the $40 million number used to lure voters toward the state’s pot-legalizing Amendment 64 in 2012, its recent growth is exciting to lawmakers and industry alike.

school construction
(Image: Dan Gross)

“It sounds very encouraging,” said state senator Pat Steadman, D-Denver. “Voters wanted the school capital construction program to benefit, and despite some bumps in the road at the beginning, it looks like what was intended is coming to fruition.”

The money from the excise tax has grown to $3.5 million in May from $2.5 million in March. This year, the excise tax has brought in $13.6 million through May; the same tax drew in just $13.3 million in all of 2014. The jump is partly because there are more marijuana stores and partly because shops benefitted from a one-time tax-exempt transfer.

Hopefully, other states with cash-strapped education systems are taking notice.

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Medical Marijuana

Massachusetts Legislators Consider Bill That Would Improve Patient Protections

July 15th, 2015 1 Comment Matt Simon

On Tuesday, Massachusetts patients and advocates urged the Joint Committee on Public Health to pass H. 2065, a bill that would improve Massachusetts’ medical marijuana law. The bill, which is supported by our allies at the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance,mpaa1-logo would protect patients from being discriminated against (with regard to college admissions, professional licensing, employment, and organ transplants, to name a few examples). It would also allow caregivers to provide up to 10 patients, and it would add a reciprocity provision allowing qualifying patients from other states to benefit from the program.

If you are a Massachusetts resident, please contact your state legislators today and ask them to join you in supporting H. 2065. 

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Tax and Regulate

Washington Marijuana Sales Generate Millions in Tax Revenue

July 14th, 2015 2 Comments Morgan Fox

Voters in Washington made marijuana legal for adults2000px-Flag_of_Washington.svg in 2012, but they could not purchase marijuana in regulated retail stores  until mid-2014. Since then, the legal industry has been raking in money for the state, in addition to providing jobs and depriving criminals of profits.

Reuters reports:

Washington state took in $65 million in tax revenue from the recreational marijuana market during the first 12 months since it became legal to produce and sell, according to data released by state regulators this week.

The revenue was generated by cannabis sales of more than $260 million from June 2014 to June 2015, according to data released by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which oversees the distribution of cannabis.

Retailers sold more than 23,000 pounds of marijuana of the 31,000 pounds produced in Washington during the year, state data showed.

This is just more evidence that shows regulation works.

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Prohibition

Pres. Obama Commutes Sentences for Nonviolent Drug Offenders

July 13th, 2015 No Comments Morgan Fox

On Monday, President Obama announced the commutation of 46 prisoners who were convicted of non-violent drug offenses.

From The New York Times:

President Obama announced on Monday that he was commuting the sentences of 46 federal drug offenders, more than doubling the number of nonviolent criminals to whom he has granted clemency since taking office.

“These men and women were not violent criminals, but the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years; 14 of them had been sentenced to life for nonviolent drug offenses, so their punishments didn’t fit the crime,” Mr. Obama said in a video released on the White House Facebook page, in which he is shown signing the commutation letters. “I believe that America, at its heart, is a nation of second chances, and I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”

Mr. Obama’s action on Monday brought the total number of commutations he has issued to 89, exceeding that of any president since Lyndon B. Johnson, who commuted 80 sentences during his tenure. It also meant that he has commuted more sentences than the last four presidents combined.

While it is unclear how many of those people were in prison for marijuana charges, this is a good sign that the administration, and the greater public, is open to substantive drug policy and criminal justice reform.

Most marijuana arrests do not result in jail time, but the collateral consequences can be still negatively impact a person for life.

However, there are a number of people serving long sentences for nonviolent marijuana offenses, some of them for life. The Department of Justice needs to reexamine these cases immediately.

For more information on the recent commutation, visit Whitehouse.gov.

(Image: Dietmar Klement)

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Research

New Study Provides More Evidence Against ‘Gateway’ Theory

July 13th, 2015 5 Comments Morgan Fox

A study published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse adds even more evidence showing that marijuana use itself does not cause people to use harder drugs.

HealthDay reports:

“We found that marijuana use within itself wasn’t a risk factor for use of other drugs,” said lead author Joseph Palamar, an assistant professor in the New York University Langone Medical Center’s department of population health. “People do generally use marijuana before other drugs, but that doesn’t mean marijuana is a cause of [using] those other drugs.”

The researchers based their conclusions on data gathered from Monitoring the Future, an ongoing study of the behaviors, attitudes and values of American high school students. Roughly 15,000 high school seniors are assessed each year.

“Most teens who use marijuana don’t progress to use of other drugs, and we believe this is evidenced in part by the fact that nearly two-thirds of these marijuana-using teens did not report use of any of the other illicit drugs we examined,” he noted.

These results show that educators and counselors would do better to prevent drug use if they focus on the reasons that students give for trying illicit substances, Palamar concluded.

“We need to address the reasons why people use, the drives that lead people to use,” he said. “The majority of adults in the U.S. have at least tried marijuana, and we know the majority has never gone on to use another drug, yet we tend to treat all drug use as pathological.”

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Prohibition

How Is Marijuana Policy Factoring into the Presidential Campaign?

July 13th, 2015 No Comments Morgan Fox

MPP’s Executive Director Rob Kampia recently published his thoughts on how marijuana policy will factor into the 2016 presidential elections:

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) recently released its quadrennial report card detailing the most prominent presidential candidates’ positions on marijuana policy.

To be sure, most voters aren’t single-issue marijuana voters (on either side of the legalization issue). Most voters make their decisions after processing a soup of positions and paid ads. So MPP’s intent is to inform a piece of that upcoming decision-making process, rather than claiming that marijuana legalization is the main issue for many voters.Republican-Elephant-Democrat-Donkey

That said, it’s worth noting that hardcore supporters of legalization are now finally capable of having a measurable impact on campaigns. For example, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) raised more than $100,000 at a marijuana-specific fundraising event in Portland on June 5. This is real money for a U.S. House race.

MPP’s early donations to Peter Shumlin (D-VT) almost certainly made the difference in his first primary contest for governor in 2010. And during the 2011-2012 election cycle, MPP was the largest donor to his campaign, edging out donations from AFSCME, Coca-Cola, and the Democratic Governors Association.

As for the presidential race, many members of the marijuana industry — which is generally defined as marijuana-related businesses that are operating legally under various states’ laws — are supporting Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). At a group fundraising meeting at the National Cannabis Industry Association’s annual conference in Denver on June 30, a room of canna-business leaders discussed the issue with Sen. Paul and donated more than $100,000 to his campaign. (This is real money for any presidential campaign.) MPP had previously donated $15,000 to Sen. Paul’s three campaign committees.

Setting aside the ability of the cannabis industry to have some degree of impact on the current presidential race, what are the positions of some of the more interesting candidates?

You can read the complete analysis at the Huffington Post.

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Prohibition

Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Moves Forward in Chile

July 13th, 2015 1 Comment James McArdle

The BBC reports that Chileans may soon be able to legally grow up to six marijuana plants thanks to a bill that was passed by a lower house of congress. Previously, those who possessed or cultivated the plant risked 15 years imprisonment.chile flag Last October, the country began its first medical marijuana trial program.

The new bill will go before a health commission and then the Senate for approval.
Members of the lower house approved the bill by a wide margin, with 68 in favour and 39 against.

Several other countries have eased restrictions for medical or personal use of marijuana in recent years. In the US, more than 20 states allow some form of medical marijuana and Colorado and Washington have legalised it for personal use. Uruguay became the first country to create a legal marijuana market in 2013 and earlier this year Jamaica decriminalised personal use of the drug.

As more and more U.S. states consider ending marijuana prohibition, countries around that world that were pressured into mimicking U.S. marijuana policy are starting to re-examine their laws as well.

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Prohibition

Federal Marijuana Banking Bill Introduced In Senate

July 9th, 2015 1 Comment Morgan Fox

Earlier today, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill in the Senate that would banks to do business with the marijuana industry in states where it is legal for medical purposes or adult use.

Politico reports:

 

Introduced by the Senate delegations from Oregon and Colorado, two of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, the bill would prohibit the federal government from penalizing banks that work with marijuana businesses.

Cory_Gardner,_Official_Portrait,_112th_Congress
Sen. Cory Gardner

Though four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana, the drug is still illegal under federal law. That makes it difficult for businesses operating in those legalized states to access financial services through the banking industry. Instead, those companies have to run all-cash operations that the senators say invite crime.

The entire legal landscape that legal marijuana currently faces is “insane,” said GOP Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado in an interview.

According to a press release from Drug Policy Alliance, “Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Denny Heck (D-WA) introduced the House version of this Senate bill earlier in the year, having also introduced a banking bill the previous session.”

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Medical Marijuana

California Organ Transplant Bill Becomes Law

July 8th, 2015 4 Comments Morgan Fox

Medical marijuana patients in California won a victory Monday when the Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that would prevent patients from being denied organ transplants.

The Associated Press reports:

The Democratic governor

Gov. Jerry Brown

announced Monday that he signed AB258 by Democratic Assemblyman Marc Levine of San Rafael.

Supporters say some patients who use medical marijuana have been denied life-saving organ transplants because they are treated by doctors as drug abusers. Marijuana is often prescribed to cancer and other patients to help with pain and side effects of treatment.

Levine’s legislation ensures that medical marijuana users have the same right to access organ transplants as other patients by prohibiting a hospital or doctor from disqualifying a person solely because of medical marijuana use.

One such patient was Norman Smith, a Los Angeles resident who succumbed to liver cancer after being denied a transplant. You can learn about his story here.

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