LD 1539 improves Maine’s medical marijuana program for patients and industry
Today, the omnibus medical marijuana bill that was passed last spring goes into effect. The bill makes major improvements to Maine’s medical marijuana program. Among some of the changes, the legislation:
- removes the qualifying condition list so that any Mainer can use medical marijuana so long as their doctor thinks it would be helpful for them;
- eliminates the requirement that a patient must designate a caregiver or dispensary as their sole provider, allowing for more patient choice;
- adds two more dispensaries to the existing eight dispensaries and removes the cap on the dispensaries after January 1, 2021; and
- allows for caregivers to open storefront businesses.
More than two years since Maine voters legalized marijuana for adults, adult-use stores have still not opened, largely due to obstruction from departing Gov. Paul LePage. In the meantime, these changes will help improve and expand medical cannabis access, including by making it more affordable.
As for the adult-use program, the state has recently hired BOTEC, out of Washington State, to help write the rules governing commercial marijuana. A significant amount of “rulemaking” has been done at the committee level, and we hope this work is respected. We hope the new governor, Janet Mills, will work diligently to get Maine’s new program off the ground. Please send her team an email, asking for marijuana legalization to be a year one priority.
Adult-use sales are up and running in all three other states where voters legalized marijuana in 2016 — California, Nevada, and Massachusetts. In Nevada, sales began more than a year ago. Please ask Gov.-elect Mills to move forward promptly, and share this with friends and family in Maine.
Another election, and another historic night for marijuana reform.
Michigan has passed legalization! MPP played a central role in this campaign from start to finish. From coordinating the initiative drafting to overseeing the production of TV ads, MPP staffers worked alongside a excellent campaign team for two years to make Michigan the first state in the Midwest to adopt legalization. This is a huge win that will maintain our momentum in Washington, D.C. to pass a landmark federal reform bill through Congress in the near future.
Utah passed medical marijuana! MPP led the drafting process and played an important supporting role throughout the campaign. We are so proud of the Utah Patients Coalition team on this historic win that will end the heartless policy of criminalizing patients. If we can pass medical marijuana in Utah, then we can pass it in any state in the country…and we will.
In Missouri, voters approved medical marijuana, and they chose the best of the three possible initiatives. We congratulate our allies in the marijuana reform movement for this important win that will help patients access the medicine they need.
Sadly, North Dakota did not pass its legalization initiative. In such a conservative state, it was always an uphill battle. The proponents ran a strong campaign, but in a midterm year, the electorate was always going to be a challenge. North Dakota passed medical marijuana in 2016. It’s only a matter of time before the state adopts legalization, either via ballot initiative or legislative action.
As a movement, we won three out of four states. And for MPP, we’ve now played a leading role in seven of the 10 states that have legalized marijuana for adults (Colorado, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Vermont, and Michigan).
We couldn’t do this work without the support of voters, allies, activists, and donors. We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to everyone who made these crucial victories last night possible.
In other great news, voters elected at least seven governors who support ending marijuana prohibition — Ned Lamont in Connecticut, JB Pritzker in Illinois, Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico, Tim Walz in Minnesota, Gavin Newsom in California, Jared Polis in Colorado, and Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan. For more details, check out our elections page.
A new poll shows the Michigan marijuana legalization campaign ahead with 56% support. While we remain cautiously optimistic about success on Election Day, we are not out of the woods yet.
A well-funded opposition campaign could still emerge. If that happens, we would likely see misleading TV and online ads telling voters that legalization has failed in Colorado, California, and beyond.
The Michigan campaign needs resources in order to present voters with the facts on this issue: prohibition has proven to be an utter failure and legalization policies are working effectively in other states.
There are just 55 days until Election Day. I know you get many such requests, but will you make a $20 donation today to support legalization in Michigan?
Michigan is a very important campaign for these reasons:
– Michigan would be the first state in the Midwest to legalize, putting pressure on nearby states including Illinois and Ohio;
– Michigan would become the second most populous state in the country to fully legalize marijuana; and
– A victory in Michigan would further increase pressure on Congress to pass federal reform in 2019.
This November, let’s make Michigan the 10th state to legalize marijuana.
AB 1793 would make expungement automatic for cannabis-related convictions that today are no longer considered crimes. It passed the Assembly in May, the Senate earlier today, and it’s now headed to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk! If you live in California, let Gov. Brown know it’s time to repair the harm caused by outdated marijuana-war policy. Californians shouldn’t be branded with a scarlet letter for conduct that is now legal.
Meanwhile, SB 829 would waive cultivation fees for donations medical cannabis businesses make to low- or no-income patients. This bill passed the Senate on May 17 followed by three Assembly committees after that. Now it faces an Assembly floor vote. If you’re a Californian and you haven’t already, use this link to send a message to your Assemblymember in support.
Finally, it’s not too late to comment on proposed agency rules for cannabis businesses. For the proposed text, summaries, and contact info for submitting comments, visit the state’s website. Comments must be received by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, August 27.
Members of the public are invited to provide comments on California’s proposed rules for cannabis businesses. The Bureau of Cannabis Control and other agencies seek public comments as they consider a permanent set of rules — replacing those temporarily in place.
For background, including the text of the proposed rules, summaries, and the agencies’ reasoning for seeking changes, visit the state’s website. Comments must be received by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, August 27.
For the most part, permanent rules would mirror those currently in place – but there are some key differences. A big improvement is a clarifying statement that adults 21 and older could receive cannabis deliveries at their own homes, statewide. This is a much-needed solution for those who live in parts of the state that have banned retail sales.
Unfortunately, the transition from illicit to legal sales has not gone as quickly as many had predicted in California, due in large part to rural communities that have refused to allow legal sales. By ensuring that deliveries are available for adults everywhere, consumers are given an option for safe, discreet, and legal sales.
Not all proposed rule changes are positive. One change would limit medical cannabis dispensaries to the sale of cannabis products and branded merchandise, preventing them from offering holistic health services such as counseling and support.
If you are a California resident, take a look at the proposed rules and be sure to send comments so they can be received before the deadline on the 27.
A bill that could restore the ability to provide free, untaxed cannabis to low- or no-income patients is now being considered in the California State Assembly. SB 829 would allow taxes to be waived for medical cannabis that is donated, free of charge, for medical cannabis patients. This is a welcome improvement for patients with limited means.
It is no surprise that seriously ill patients can be faced with little or no income. Combine that with the fact that medical insurance providers don’t cover medical cannabis, and it can create a serious financial burden on medical marijuana patients. Today in California, even cannabis that is donated free of charge must be taxed an excise tax. This is unfair to those in need. SB 829 aims to provide relief. For a look at the latest bill text, click here.
Under the bill, both cultivators and retail dispensaries would be excused from the tax burden on cannabis that is donated to those who qualify. It’s a simple change but an important one.
If you are a California resident and agree patients need additional relief, please take a moment to ask your Assemblymembers to vote yes on SB 829 when it is before them for a vote. It’s a common-sense step for some of California’s most vulnerable residents.
In the coming days, lawmakers are expected to vote on providing relief for Californians saddled with harmful cannabis-related criminal histories. Under Assembly Bill 1793, any adult who was convicted of a marijuana offense that is no longer illegal would have their conviction erased automatically. This is a huge step forward to repairing decades of harmful policy.
Marijuana prohibition has harmed hundreds of thousands of individuals who now have cannabis convictions. This can limit career, educational, and housing opportunities. Since voters approved Prop. 64 in 2016, Californians have been able to petition to expunge (remove) these prior convictions, but the process can be costly and burdensome. And many don’t realize it’s an option.
AB 1793 would make the process automatic. It would direct the state Department of Justice to review the state’s criminal database and identify convictions that could be dismissed, downgraded, or simply expunged, and take the steps needed to make those changes.
To learn about the status of other cannabis reform bills in California, check out this East Bay Express article.
Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday that would resolve the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws and allow states to determine their own marijuana policies.
The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act exempts individuals and entities from certain provisions of the Controlled Substances Act if they are acting in compliance with state marijuana laws. This is the third time Rohrabacher has introduced the bill. Twenty of his colleagues in the House, including seven Republicans, co-sponsored the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015, which was introduced in the 114th Congress.
“The call for federal marijuana policy reform is growing louder and louder,” said Don Murphy, MPP director of conservative outreach. “Congress needs to listen to their constituents and to state lawmakers, most of whom agree marijuana policy is an issue best left to the states. This is a bipartisan solution that ought to find support on both sides of the aisle.”
In an interview with Rolling Stone published Nov. 29, President Barack Obama spoke candidly about how he thinks marijuana should be treated:
You can now buy marijuana legally on the entire West Coast. So why are we still waging the War on Drugs? It is a colossal failure. Why are we still dancing around the subject and making marijuana equivalent to a Schedule I drug?
Look, I’ve been very clear about my belief that we should try to discourage substance abuse. And I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea. But I do believe that treating this as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it. Typically how these classifications are changed are not done by presidential edict but are done either legislatively or through the DEA. As you might imagine, the DEA, whose job it is historically to enforce drug laws, is not always going to be on the cutting edge about these issues.
[Laughs] What about you? Are you gonna get on the cutting edge?
Look, I am now very much in lame-duck status. And I will have the opportunity as a private citizen to describe where I think we need to go. But in light of these referenda passing, including in California, I've already said, and as I think I mentioned on Bill Maher's show, where he asked me about the same issue, that it is untenable over the long term for the Justice Department or the DEA to be enforcing a patchwork of laws, where something that's legal in one state could get you a 20-year prison sentence in another. So this is a debate that is now ripe, much in the same way that we ended up making progress on same-sex marriage. There's something to this whole states-being-laboratories-of-democracy and an evolutionary approach. You now have about a fifth of the country where this is legal.
Lame duck or not, there are still more than 40 days for Pres. Obama to grant pardons or commute sentences for those convicted of federal marijuana violations. Please contact the White House and ask the president to use his remaining time in office to restore justice for the victims of marijuana prohibition.
On Election Day, voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada declared an end to the war on marijuana in their states by approving initiatives to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol for adults. This historic event was by far the biggest victory for drug policy reform to date, and will help pave the way for progress around the country.
There are now eight states where marijuana is legal for adults to possess and where cultivation and retail sales are regulated and taxed. Marijuana possession and cultivation are legal in the District of Columbia, but Congress has prevented the city from regulating the non-medical marijuana industry.
This means that marijuana is legal for 66.5 million Americans, or about 21% of the population.
Unfortunately, a similar initiative in Arizona is trailing while the final votes are being counted, but advocates are already preparing to continue the fight in the legislature and possibly at the ballot in coming years.
Support for ending marijuana prohibition is increasing across the nation, according to recent polls. Marijuana initiatives out-performed a number of successful politicians in some states as well. During President-elect Trump's campaign, he voiced support for leaving marijuana policy up to the states. Advocates are hopeful that the next administration will support the will of the people and continue the federal policy of non-interference until Congress is able to pass meaningful marijuana policy reform.