Medical Marijuana

Virginia Governor McAuliffe Expresses Support For Medical Marijuana

August 29th, 2014 7 Comments » Kate Zawidzki
McAuliffe
Gov. Terry McAuliffe

Earlier this week, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe took a question about legalizing and regulating marijuana for adults’ use, as Colorado has done. While he is not “yet” supportive of this sensible policy change, he did use the question as an opportunity to express his support for medical marijuana. The Virginia General Assembly should follow suit by sending Gov. McAuliffe a comprehensive medical marijuana bill in 2015.

Virginia law already recognizes marijuana’s medicinal benefits, but, because of the way the law is written, patients are left without a legal way to access, possess, or even use their medicine without a change in federal policy. Virginia can and should enact a law similar to the laws in 23 states and D.C. that allow the terribly ill to use, possess, and access medical marijuana in state despite the failed and draconian federal prohibition.

If you are a Virginia resident, please email your lawmakers urging them to pass compassionate legislation.

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

Rhode Island Primary Is Two Weeks Away – Where Do The Candidates Stand?

August 29th, 2014 1 Comment » Kate Zawidzki

Tuesday, September 9, is Primary Election Day in Rhode Island. With an open race for the top slot in the state, all eyes are on the gubernatorial primary races. Next year, the legislature will continue discussing whether Rhode Island should replace marijuana prohibition with sensible regulations, so it is important to know how the candidates for governor view the issue.

Democratic primary gubernatorial candidates: When asked in March, all three major candidates — Gina Raimondo, Angel Taveras, and Clay Pell — indicated that they are monitoring the effects of regulation and taxation in Colorado and Washington. However, all indications are that Taveras is the least open to marijuana regulation — he stated that he is “not currently supportive of legalization.” This is not too surprising considering Taveras has received public support from prominent marijuana prohibitionist and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy.

Republican primary gubernatorial candidates: On the Republican side of the coin, Ken Block has said he will withhold judgment until he can “see the results in Colorado and Washington.” His opponent, Allan Fung, not only opposes “the legalization of marijuana for recreational use,” but also makes no mention of even being interested in results from Colorado and Washington.  

If you are a Rhode Island resident, please get out and vote on Tuesday, September 9, and pass this message on to other Rhode Island voters who support humane and fiscally sound marijuana policies. The New York Times agrees that regulation — not prohibition — is the more sensible approach to marijuana policy; we hope the next governor of Rhode Island does, too.

 

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Prohibition

Voters in Santa Fe to Consider Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession

August 28th, 2014 4 Comments » Morgan Fox

The list of localities considering making marijuana legal or decriminalizing possession of small amounts is steadily growing, and two New Mexico cities were just added to the list last week.

In Santa Fe, organizers submitted almost 11,000 signatures to allow voters to decide to remove criminal penalties for simple possession.

Currently in Santa Fe, first-time offenders in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana are charged with a petty misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $50 to $100 and imprisonment of not more than 15 days. The proposal calls for possession to be treated as a civil infraction, requiring no jail time and punishable by a fine of no more than $25.

State and federal law would be unaffected by the change, if it were approved. Police officers would have discretion as to whether to charge violations under a city ordinance, handled in municipal court, or under state statute, adjudicated in magistrate court.

However, the petition called for possession of small amounts of marijuana and instruments used to ingest it to be considered “a lowest law enforcement priority.”

In Albuquerque, supporters were unable to get enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot, but the city council included a similar provision in a package of local legislative bills. The mayor has voiced his opposition and threatened a veto, but it is unclear if he has the legal authority to do so.

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Research

Studies Suggest Marijuana May Help Decrease Domestic Violence and Overdose Deaths

August 27th, 2014 7 Comments » Morgan Fox

A pair of recent studies suggest that marijuana policy reform may be paving the way for a healthier, happier world in at least two ways.

The first, released by the University of Buffalo, found that couples who use marijuana are the least likely to engage in, or be the victim of, domestic violence and abuse.

The authors caution that while these findings are predictive–meaning couples who smoke are less likely to commit domestic violence–they don’t necessarily draw a causal line between the two behaviors. Among the connections they hypothesize, “marijuana may increase positive affect, which in turn could reduce the likelihood of conflict and aggression.” …

Another possible mechanism: “chronic [marijuana] users exhibit blunted emotional reaction to threat stimuli, which may also decrease the likelihood of aggressive behavior.”

The second study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, reported that  states with medical marijuana laws have roughly 25% fewer painkiller overdose deaths than states which do not allow medical marijuana.  While the authors caution that this could simply be a correlation, not a causal effect, a large amount of anecdotal research exists from patients who report weaning or discontinuing their use of prescription painkillers once they are able to use marijuana to treat their conditions.

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General

New Hampshire Begins Considering Dispensary Rules

August 27th, 2014 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

The delays in implementing New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program have been very frustrating for patients. Fortunately, the state finally appears to be making progress toward the adoption of alternative treatment center (dispensary) rules. The Concord Monitor reported some details of the rule-making process this morning.

You can read the first draft of the proposed rules here. The Department of Health and Human Services will accept comments as part of an “advance comment period,” which ends tomorrow. After that, the department will enter its formal rule-making phase, which will include a public hearing and additional opportunities for public comment. The department released a timeline indicating that it hopes to secure final approval of the dispensary rules by November 20.

You can read the comments being submitted by MPP here. While we have identified a number of issues with the rules, we think the most troubling provisions are the onerous application fee of $80,000 and the annual renewal fee of $80,000. We understand that the law requires the Department to set fees that cover the costs of administering the program, but it is unclear whether New Hampshire will have any qualified applicants who wish to enter this heavily restricted dispensary market with fees this high.

For information on how to submit comments, please visit the department’s website for the “therapeutic use of cannabis” program.

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Research

Prominent Think Tank Praises Washington’s Legal Marijuana System

August 27th, 2014 8 Comments » Morgan Fox

On Monday, respected policy think tank The Brookings Institutionbrookings published a paper analyzing Washington’s implementation of the law passed in 2012 to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol. The results: the state is doing well and is actively trying to learn from the process. The results could have far-reaching implications for marijuana policy reform in other states.

Brookings’ Philip Wallach interviewed advocates, researchers, and government policymakers in Washington to learn about the state’s novel approach.  In this report, he highlights several noteworthy features:

  • Building a funding source for research directly into the law: a portion of the excise tax revenues from marijuana sales will fund research on the reform’s effects and on how its social costs can be effectively mitigated.
  • Bringing to bear many perspectives on legalization by coordinating research efforts across multiple state agencies, including the Department of Social and Health Services, the Department of Health, and the Liquor Control Board.
  • Mandating a cost-benefit analysis by the state’s in-house think tank, which will be nearly unprecedented in its scope and duration.

Wallach makes a number of suggestions to ensure that Washington’s knowledge experiment can be made to work, including:

  • Ensure political independence for researchers, both by pressuring politicians to allow them to do their work and by encouraging the researchers themselves to refrain from making political recommendations
  • Gather and translate research into forms usable by policymakers
  • Counter misinformation with claims of confident uncertainty
  • Have realistic expectations about the timeline for empirical learning, which means cultivating patience over the next few years
  • Specify which reliable metrics would indicate success or failure of legalization

The full report can be found here.

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Prohibition

Local Legalization Initiatives Moving Forward in Maine 

August 27th, 2014 2 Comments » Morgan Fox

As we’ve reported previously, three cities in Maine could be voting this November on initiatives that would direct local police not to arrest adults age 21 and over for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Despite opposition from city government, law enforcement, and the Maine chapter of Project SAM, all three initiatives are gaining public support and making steady headway in the election process.

Earlier this month, activists in the town of Lewiston turned in more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. The city council is expected to place the petition on the ballot at their Sep. 2 meeting.

Dave Safer sign
David Boyer, MPP Maine Political Director

Last week, the South Portland city council voted to let the public decide the issue after voicing unanimous opposition.  Supporters turned in more than 1,500 signatures in favor of the initiative.

And in York, after a second round of petitioning and being opposed by a majority of the Board of Selectman, the campaign turned in enough signatures to qualify for the ballot today. The press conference for the event was attended by supportive York Selectman Ronald Nowell.

If all goes well, Maine will have four localities where marijuana is legal for adults after Nov. 2, putting the state on the right track for passing a comprehensive measure to regulate marijuana like alcohol in 2016.

 

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Tax and Regulate

Major Oregon Newspaper Supports Measure 91

August 26th, 2014 1 Comment » Morgan Fox

Over the weekend, one of the most popular newspapers in Oregon lent its support to Measure 91, which would make marijuana legal for adults in the state. Voters will decide on the initiative in November.

From The Oregonian:

Measure 91 would move Oregon from a hazy condition of almost-legalization to one of rational access guided by straightforward regulations and subject to sensible taxation.  In other words, it would force Oregon’s 16-year-old marijuana experiment out of adolescence and into legal adulthood. The measure appropriately leaves the task of regulating the new industry to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which knows a thing or two about the distribution and sale of intoxicants. The OLCC would adopt the necessary rules by 2016.

Measure 91, far from revolutionary, would simply allow Oregon adults to obtain something they may obtain now, but without having to stroll through a “medical” loophole or drive over a bridge to a neighboring state. The measure would be worth supporting for reasons of honesty and convenience alone, but it also would raise millions of dollars per year for schools and other purposes. For that reason, it deserves support even from those who aren’t normally high on taxes.

While we would not characterize the Oregon medical marijuana program as anything other than a success that has provided thousands of patients out of jail, this is certainly a strong statement of support that will hopefully be heeded by voters in November.

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

Vermont Primary Elections Today; All GOP Candidates Support Ending Marijuana Prohibition

August 26th, 2014 3 Comments » Kate Zawidzki

A debate between the candidates for the Republican nomination to become the next Governor of Vermont produced a pleasant surprise this weekend. The Associated Press reported that all three Republican gubernatorial candidates said they support ending marijuana prohibition. The momentum behind legalizing and regulating marijuana in Vermont seems to be growing with each passing week!

The Vermont primary election takes place TODAY. Before you go to vote, please click here to view MPP’s voter guide for the Vermont primary election.

We know that marijuana prohibition will end in the Green Mountain State. Please help us end this destructive policy as quickly and sensibly as possible.

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

Public Funds Paying For “Educational Tour” Against Oregon Marijuana Initiative

August 20th, 2014 7 Comments » Morgan Fox

Proponents of Measure 91, which would make marijuana legal for adults in Oregon and regulate cultivation and retail sales, are up in arms at the discovery that  federal funds are being used to bring drug warrior Kevin Sabet and company to their state to fight against the initiative.

Anthony-Johnson-Photo-300x300
Anthony Johnson, Yes On 91

While being billed as nothing more than an educational tour, the two-day conference in Oregon will spend at least half that time focusing on marijuana and providing law enforcement and other prohibitionists with tools to use against the Measure 91 campaign. The tour is funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. According to the Willamette Week, the event will also be spearheaded by Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis, who says the “Oregon District Attorneys Association plans to invest in the No on 91 campaign…”

[Anthony] Johnson, the chief petitioner for Yes on 91, says the tour appears to skirt campaign finance law, if not outright break it.

“It’s a misuse of federal taxpayer dollars to campaign against a state ballot measure days before people start voting on it,” he tells WW. “Calling this an ‘education campaign’ is preposterous, and if it is legal, it shouldn’t be.”

MPP has long contended that public funds should never be used to campaign against legislation and ballot initiatives, including the use of on-duty law enforcement. Such behavior is a violation, in spirit if not in law, of the democratic process.

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