Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Legislature Passes Bill to Improve Medical Marijuana Access

June 28th, 2013 3 Comments Kate Zawidzki

New Jersey’s medical marijuana law has shown itself to be overly restrictive and flawed in many ways, but fortunately, the legislature has approved a bill that would make a few significant improvements.

S2842/A4241 was drafted on behalf of two-year-old patient Vivian Wilson, who suffers from a severe form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome but has not been able to benefit from the state’s the program. The bill, which has been supported by our allies at the Drug Policy Alliance, would make three significant changes to New Jersey’s law:

* It would remove the requirement that an alternative treatment center may only grow three strains of marijuana.
* It would allow medical marijuana to be distributed in edible forms and other forms approved by the Commissioner of Health.
* It would remove the requirement that minor patients with serious illnesses must receive a recommendation from a pediatrician and psychiatrist in addition to the treating physician.

This bill passed the Assembly Monday in a 55-13 vote after having previously been approved by the Senate, 24-14. However, Gov. Chris Christie has not indicated whether he will sign the bill, and in an interview last month, he said he’s “not inclined to allow” minors to have access to medical marijuana.

If you are a New Jersey resident, please call Gov. Christie today and urge him to sign this bill.

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Reform Efforts Accelerating in Maine

June 27th, 2013 No Comments Morgan Fox

The past month has seen the state of Maine take some notable steps toward positive marijuana policy reform. On June 7, a bill to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol, LD 1229, was narrowly defeated. Despite losing this time, this marked one of the best votes in a state legislature for a legalization bill. The sponsor, Portland Democrat Rep. Diane Russell, has vowed to continue pushing for this legislation.

Boyer Portland Daily Sun
MPP’s David Boyer

Even if statewide change may be slow in coming, activists aren’t waiting around to promote policy alternatives at the local level. Earlier this month, petitioners submitted the signatures required to propose a ballot initiative in the city of Portland that would make possession of marijuana legal for adults. MPP and other groups have been taking every opportunity to educate voters about this initiative, including at a recent beer festival, where Maine political director David Boyer informed attendees about the objective safety of marijuana compared to alcohol.

And on Wednesday, the Maine Legislature approved a bill that would add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for its medical marijuana program. Maine will now join California, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and New Mexico in allowing marijuana to be used to treat PTSD.

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National Lawyers Guild Calls for Better Marijuana Policies

June 27th, 2013 2 Comments Kate Zawidzki

The National Lawyers Guild, a public interest and human rights bar organization, released a report on June 25 highlighting the failures of marijuana prohibition and suggesting strategies for legalizationPastedGraphic-1 initiatives.

The report, “High Crimes: Strategies to Further Marijuana Legalization Initiatives,” recommends both alternative policies for the U.S. government to pursue and strategies for drug-reform advocates to employ. The key recommendations are: reframe drug use as a social and public health issue; revisit international drug treaties; reclassify marijuana from its status as a Schedule I substance; support the right of states to legalize marijuana for adult use without federal interference; end civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement; and connect legalization efforts to the abolition of the for-profit prison industry.

“Marijuana legalization will create new jobs, generate millions of dollars in tax revenue, and allow law enforcement to focus on serious crimes,” said Brian Vicente, an NLG member and one of the primary authors of Colorado’s legalization amendment. “It would be a travesty if the Obama administration used its power to impose marijuana prohibition upon a state whose people have declared, through the democratic process, that they want it to end.”

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Sensible Marijuana Proposals Advance to Governor in Oregon

June 27th, 2013 No Comments Kate Zawidzki
Gov. Kitzhaber

On June 25, the Oregon Legislature sent two bills that would make sensible changes to Oregon’s marijuana laws to Gov. Kitzhaber for his approval. If enacted, these proposals would reduce the severity of the punishment for certain marijuana crimes. SB 40 would reduce the penalties for possession of marijuana. Possession of under an ounce of marijuana is currently punished by a civil violation. This bill reduces the criminal penalty for possession of between one and four ounces, as well as the penalty for possession of more than four ounces. If you are an Oregon resident, please ask the governor to support these reasonable changes. SB 82 would eliminate the requirement to suspend a person’s driver’s license if he or she is found in possession of under an ounce of marijuana. Possession of under an ounce is not a criminal act in Oregon; it makes no sense to add draconian measures like suspension of driving privileges for the non-violent act of simple possession. Urge Gov. Kitzhaber to end this heavy-handed practice.

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Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Medical Marijuana Bill Earns Final House and Senate Approval

June 27th, 2013 16 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Yesterday, the House and Senate granted final approval to the compromise version of New Hampshire’s medical marijuana bill. HB 573 will soon be printed and transmitted to the governor’s desk, and Gov. Maggie Hassan has already promised to sign it into law. The Senate approved the bill in a voice vote, with no discussion, and the House voted 284-66 in favor, also with no discussion.

Many of us have mixed feelings about the details of HB 573 (summary is available here), but we should all agree that its passage represents a major step forward for marijuana policy reform in New Hampshire. It’s unfortunate that patients will have to wait up to a year until ID cards are issued before they can receive legal protection, and it’s unfortunate that patients will not have legal access to medical marijuana until alternative treatment centers are open. However, we will strongly encourage the state health department to begin issuing ID cards and registering alternative treatment centers as soon as possible.

With Gov. Hassan’s signature, New Hampshire will become either the 19th or 20th state to pass an effective medical marijuana law. (A similar bill is awaiting the governor’s signature in Illinois.) MPP will continue working on this policy until New Hampshire patients have safe, legal access to medical marijuana!

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New York Legislature Adjourns Without Improving Marijuana Laws

June 25th, 2013 6 Comments Kate Zawidzki

The New York Legislature adjourned its regular session early Saturday morning without passing two important marijuana policy reform bills. Both bills passed the Assembly, but ultimately stalled in the Senate: a bill legalizing medical marijuana for seriously ill patients and a bill that would have fixed the “public view” loophole in New York’s decriminalization law.

Although the Senate failed to take up the medical marijuana bill once again, there is still reason for hope. Over 600 New York physicians recently came out in support of medical marijuana, the Assembly passed medical marijuana legislation for the fourth time, and a recent statewide poll found 82% support for medical marijuana.

If you are a New York resident, please email leadership, including Gov. Cuomo, Sen. Skelos, and Sen. Klein, and ask them to support medical marijuana patients.

The Senate also failed to vote on legislation to fix the public view exception to New York’s decriminalization law. A6716 would have eliminated the false justification police are using to make tens of thousands of marijuana arrests each year.

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Medical Marijuana

Two Vermont Dispensaries Begin Serving Patients

June 25th, 2013 1 Comment Kate Zawidzki
Champlain Valley Dispensary

Vermont’s medical marijuana patients have finally been afforded a safe, legal option that doesn’t require the hassle of cultivating marijuana plants! As reported by The Burlington Free Press, two dispensaries have now opened their doors to patients: Vermont Patients Alliance held a “soft opening” late last week in Montpelier and Champlain Valley Dispensary opened Monday in Burlington.

The Free Press reported that both dispensaries are now open three days a week. A third dispensary has been approved and plans to locate in Brandon. A total of four dispensaries are allowed under the law MPP and our allies worked hard to pass in 2011.

These dispensaries will expand access and make life much easier for many patients. However, there is still room for improvement in Vermont’s medical marijuana law. For example, it only allows a maximum of 1,000 patients to be served by dispensaries. Additionally, patients who designate a dispensary are no longer permitted to cultivate their own plants.

State-regulated dispensaries are now open in the following seven states: NM, ME, CO, AZ, NJ, RI, and VT. State-regulated dispensaries are allowed, but have not yet been selected, in four additional states: MA, CT, NV, and DE. In the District of Columbia, dispensaries should be serving patients soon.

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U.S. Mayors Approve Marijuana Resolution: End the Federal Government Crackdown

June 25th, 2013 7 Comments Kate Zawidzki

The U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously passed a resolution on Monday, June 24 criticizing the failure of marijuana prohibition and demanding that the federal government respect states’ and cities’ marijuana laws.

The resolution, “In Support of States Setting Their Own Marijuana Policies Without Federal Interference,” calls for the Obama administration to allow states and localities to “set whatever marijuana policies work best to improve the public safety and health of their communities.” The resolution was introduced by San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and co-sponsored by eight mayors representing cities ranging from Seattle, WA to Binghamton, NY.

“In November, voters in my city and state strongly approved a ballot measure to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana,” Republican Mayor Steve Hogan of Aurora, CO said in a statement after the vote. “The bipartisan resolution we passed today simply asks the federal government to give us time to implement these new policies properly and without interference.”

The resolution cited a recent Gallup poll’s finding that 64% of Americans believe states should be able to reform their marijuana policies without federal interference.

This is not the first time that the mayors’ conference has taken a stance on federal drug policy. In 2007, the conference declared the War on Drugs a failure and called for a health-centered reorientation of drug policy.

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Martha Stewart: “Of course I know how to roll a joint”

June 25th, 2013 5 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Arts and crafts business magnate Martha Stewart has joined a growing tide of influential celebrities willing to open up about their personal marijuana use. In a June 12 interview with Andy Cohen, Stewart candidly responded to the question: “Do you know how to roll a joint?”

martha snoop
Martha Stewart with Snoop Lion

Stewart first told a story about her drive to the interview, during which she spotted the passengers of a neighboring car smoking “sloppy joints.” She then said, “Of course I know how to roll a joint.”

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Prohibition, Research

U.S. House Approves Hemp Research Amendment

June 21st, 2013 1 Comment Kate Zawidzki

Yesterday, we told you about an amendment to H.R. 1947, “the farm bill,” that would allow universities and colleges to cultivate industrial hemp. We asked you to call your representatives and help pass this amendment, and you came through! Earlier today, by a vote of 225-200, the House adopted the amendment. Despite the full bill being voted down because of partisan differences, this is a big victory.

Why is it so important? First, the DEA lobbied hard against us and lost. This is perhaps the first time that Congress has listened to arguments from the DEA and advocates for marijuana policy reform, then sided with us. Second, even though this bill won’t pass, there’s a good chance the amendment will get inserted into other legislation now that the full House has approved it.

Here’s the bottom line: the tide is turning. No longer do members of Congress blindly listen to the DEA and ignore advocates. We’re making real progress, and with your help, we can continue building support for further reforms.

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