The New Hampshire Senate Health and Human Services Committee is expected to vote on HB 1476 next Tuesday, April 24.
The bill, which has already passed the House in a voice vote, would allow home cultivation of up to two mature cannabis plants and 12 seedlings by registered patients and caregivers. Many patients are unable to afford the products that are available at dispensaries, which are not covered by health insurance. Others have to drive long distances in order to reach a dispensary. For some patients, home cultivation is simply the best, most affordable option.
The 2018 legislative session is underway in West Virginia, and several bills have already been introduced to make the medical cannabis program more workable and accessible for patients.
The two most important bills that have been introduced so far are HB 4147 and HB 4149. HB 4147 would require the state to begin issuing ID cards to qualified patients and caregivers in July of this year instead of waiting until July 2019. HB 4149 would allow patients to purchase cannabis flowers from dispensaries, rather than limiting patients to more expensive extracts.
Patients and caregivers can begin enrolling in Arkansas’ medical marijuana program now, although cards will not be available for some time.
If you are a qualifying patient, you can go to the Arkansas Department of Health website and enroll online, or you can mail in your application. Patients must submit a written certification form filled out by a physician, a photocopy of their Arkansas state-issued ID, and a nonrefundable $50 application fee. Caregivers must also undergo a $34 criminal history check. Note that due to an amendment to the program by the Legislature, members of the Arkansas National Guard and the U.S. military are not permitted to enroll in the program as either patients or caregivers.
While patients can apply for program enrollment now, their ID cards will not be issued until 30 days before medical cannabis actually becomes available from dispensaries for purchase. The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission estimates that dispensaries should be open by the end of the year or early 2018. You can learn more about the dispensary application process here.
The Louisiana Legislature continues to repeat its mistakes. For nearly 40 years, flawed legislative drafting has prevented the establishment of a workable medical marijuana program. Yesterday, the House took another step forward by passing S.B. 180, but it failed to fix a key omission.
Last week, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law S.B. 271, legislation intended to fix a poison pill so Louisiana can establish a medical marijuana program (you can read about it here). However, that law did not amend the criminal statutes, meaning the program would provide medical marijuana to seriously ill patients but allow for their prosecution.
S.B. 180, Sen. Frank Mills’ companion bill, seeks to close this loophole and does so for patients and caregivers. Unfortunately, the House did not even consider amending the bill to also shield growers, pharmacies, or their workers from criminal liability. While a court could find legal protections implicit for licensees, the omission could jeopardize the entire program.
S.B. 180 is now before the Senate for a concurrence.
When this session ends, Louisiana will be significantly closer to offering relief to seriously ill patients. The regulatory and licensing process will take many months, and final fixes can be made next session if they are needed. Meanwhile, the state can move to lay the structure for the program.
The clock ran out on Maryland legislators last night. A bill to give medical marijuana caregivers an affirmative defense against charges of possession was collateral damage as legislators spent the evening trying and failing to reach a budget compromise. It wasn’t a total loss though — two good bills did pass. Here’s MPP’s summary of marijuana policy reform developments in the 2012 session of Maryland’s General Assembly.
The two bills that passed are SB 422 and SB 350. The former requires charging certain minor offenses, including marijuana possession, by citation, meaning marijuana users can be arrested (though it’s not required) but won’t be spending the night or the weekend in jail. The latter reduces the maximum penalty for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana from one year in jail to 90 days and the maximum fine from $1,000 to $500. Here again is the full summary.
In a great show of respect for the will of the voters in Montana, Gov. Schweitzer vetoed H.B. 161, the bill that would have repealed Montana’s medical marijuana law. That law, which was approved by a large majority of voters in 2004, has come under criticism lately, and overzealous lawmakers are doing everything they can to gut or eliminate the program.
While this is a wonderful sign of support from the governor, medical marijuana patients and businesses are still at risk. The legislature is currently considering another bill that would seriously damage the ability of patients to access their medicine, and would destroy the legitimate medical marijuana industry that has emerged in Montana. S.B. 423, and especially the House version of the bill, would add to the already staggering unemployment rate in Montana and would effectively send patients back to criminal organizations to get their medicine. It would also severely limit the number of patients for whom a caregiver can grow marijuana.
Hopefully, the Senate will reject the House’s version of “repeal lite” and insist on a more compassionate proposal. Even if the Senate rejects the House’s unworkable bill, though, the Senate version was also too onerous and unworkable, especially for pain patients. Patients will likely need to rely on the governor to see the error in this bill as well, and suggest reasonable regulations for Montana’s medical marijuana industry that do not hurt patients or their caregivers.
This week has seen a sudden explosion in DEA raids of medical marijuana businesses, leaving patients, caregivers, and activists reeling.
On Monday, 26 medical marijuana businesses throughout Montana were raided by task forces comprised of federal and local law enforcement. As usual, some arrests were made and anything of value seized as evidence under sealed warrants. Interestingly, these raids began within minutes of a vote that stalled the bill to repeal Montana’s voter-approved medical marijuana law. Patients and employees of medical marijuana businesses have been mobilizing with the help of Americans for Safe Access to respond to these strong-arm tactics.
This travesty was repeated Tuesday when the DEA and local law enforcement raided two West Hollywood dispensaries. This occurred shortly after a measure to tax medical marijuana businesses in Los Angeles passed, adding even more legitimacy to the industry there. (A video about the raids is at the bottom of this post, courtesy of ReasonTV.)
It should be noted that the Justice Department “Ogden Memo” instructs federal law enforcement not to spend resources going after medical marijuana businesses as long as they are following state law. Of course, the Justice Department thinks all these businesses were violating state law, but is that for them to decide, or the states?
From all accounts, the California dispensaries that were raided were model businesses. Unfortunately, Montana’s medical marijuana law is vague when it comes to dispensaries, but there are several bills currently being considered by the state legislature that would establish their legality and a system of tight controls. For the DEA to go in now like angry thugs, when the exact extent of the law is in a state of flux, is unacceptable.
The manner in which these raids are taking place is equally unacceptable. These businesses are trying to follow every law and pay their taxes like any other legitimate business. Yet, when their compliance is in question, the federal government attacks them with threats and violence, taking money and destroying property. Where else does this happen? If an automobile manufacturer accidentally miscalculates its taxes or unintentionally steps outside of an unclear law, charges are filed and the issue is dealt with in court peacefully. Federal agents don’t kick down the factory doors, destroy all the cars on the lot, or sell off the factory equipment. They don’t handcuff the autoworkers and force them to lie on the ground with guns in their faces.
This aggression toward medical marijuana businesses must stop.
Please click here to ask President Obama to stand by his promises and end the raids.
Medical marijuana patients in the Aloha State could be looking at major improvements to their ability to access their medicine. Last week, two proposals were introduced in the state legislature to augment the 10-year-old law.
Sen. Will Espero proposed a bill that would increase the number of plants a patient can personally grow from four to 10. Patients would also be able to designate a caregiver to grow the same amount of plants instead, and each caregiver would be able to take on up to four patients. This bill would also keep patients' names and grow site locations private, and would allow a person with a qualifying condition to get a medical marijuana recommendation from a doctor other than his or her primary care physician.
A bill that would set up state-licenced compassion centers was also introduced by Sen. J. Kalani English. While the licensing fees and taxes for these businesses would be large, this proposal would be the first of its kind to allow dispensaries to provide marijuana to non-Hawaii residents who are legal medical marijuana patients in their home states.
Of course, the police are fighting this tooth and nail, and are trotting out the same old predictable arguments. According to Sen. Espero, Hawaii lawmakers aren't buying it anymore. And neither is the new governor.