Great news! The Department of of Health has announced that Rhode Island families can now access medical marijuana to treat autism. The decision was issued this week after a petition was filed in April to add autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.
The announcement imposes some stipulations for physicians interested in recommending medical marijuana for patients with ASD, including that they first try FDA-approved medications and CBD products. The statement can be read in full here.
The Health Department held a public hearing on ASD and medical marijuana in August. At the hearing, Nicole Cervantes, a mother of a son with ASD, testified that CBD had significantly improved her child’s condition. “He has been able to focus more,” she said. “He no longer bangs his head.”
In recent years, families across the country have spoken out about how medical marijuana has helped minimize the worst symptoms of ASD. Rhode Island now joins seven other states that make some allowance for medical marijuana in the treatment of autism.
This is a great step forward for Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program. Let’s keep working to make further improvements to the state’s marijuana policies.
In a small step forward for patients who could benefit from medical cannabis, the definition of “marijuana” under Kansas law was changed by SB 282 to exclude cannabidiol (CBD). However, because state law separately bans tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), it will be difficult for medical cannabis patients to take advantage of this provision, because most CBD products contain at least trace amounts of THC (“hemp” is sometimes defined as 0.3% THC or less).
The bill itself does not provide for in-state access to CBD oils in Kansas, and CBD products are generally still illegal under federal law, as the Drug Enforcement Administration clarified in a rule that was recently upheld in federal court. But, there may be a narrow exception under a federal law allowing hemp research programs — and Gov. Colyer also recently signed a bill that will create such a program in Kansas.
While there are a number of “CBD” products available online, these products are typically unregulated, and unfortunately some do not actually contain the amount of CBD on the label — or any at all — or they also contain THC or dangerous compounds such as heavy metals. A more reliable way to obtain CBD oil would be to get it in a state with a regulated cannabis market such as Colorado, but doing so can be costly and onerous.
Despite its limitations, this is step forward. Once the law takes effect (which will happen when it is formally published), if patients are caught in possession of CBD oil that contains no THC, they will no longer be subject to prosecution for marijuana possession under Kansas law. With the passage of this bill, Idaho is now the only remaining state that does not acknowledge the medical benefits of cannabinoids in any way!
Yesterday, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed a bill that will significantly expand the number of patients who qualify for the state's low-THC medical cannabis oils. Beginning on July 1, HB 65 will allow patients with intractable pain and adults with PTSD to qualify for the program, which allows registered patients to possess cannabis oils with no more than 5% THC content.
Georgia’s most passionate legislative champion of medical cannabis — Rep. Allen Peake (R) — sponsored both HB 65 and another bill — HB 645 — which would have allowed in-state production of cannabis oils. Currently, registered patients have nowhere to legally purchase cannabis oils in Georgia. Unfortunately, HB 645 didn’t receive a floor vote. However, HB 65 includes a study commission on in-state access to cannabis. Seriously ill patients who are already granted the ability to possess cannabis products clearly need a way to obtain them without sidestepping the law.
This is Rep. Peake’s last year in the legislature; he announced in February that he will not run for re-election. His leadership will be missed in the capital!
The University of Utah Health and the University of California San Diego recently announced separate plans to begin new phases of research on medical marijuana. In Utah, the study will focus on the individual effects of cannabinoids on brain processes, while UC San Diego researchers will probe possible treatments for autism with marijuana. Both projects have been made possible by grants from the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation in partnership with the Wholistic Research and Education Foundation.
The University of Utah Health received $740,000 to support innovative brain-imaging research, which will analyze how various cannabinoids affect cognition, stress, and pain. The study will involve 40 healthy young adults and seek to understand the causal mechanisms through which cannabinoids interact with receptors in the brain.
“Deciphering the personalized effects of CBD [cannabidiol] and THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] will have a profound impact on how various cannabinoids may best be used for medical treatments,” said Jon-Kar Zubieta, MD, PhD, chair of the University of Utah School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and the study’s co-principal investigator.
With the support of a $4.7 million gift — the largest amount ever donated for medical marijuana research in the United States — the University of California San Diego will study the effects of CBD on autism. This research, the first of its kind, will investigate how CBD might correct neurochemical imbalances in individuals with autism, a condition that impacts an estimated 1 in 68 children born today.
“There are unconfirmed reports that cannabidiol could be helpful, but there are no careful studies to document either its benefits or its safety,” commented Igor Grant, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “This gift will enable our researchers to develop and implement a translational program of research that pairs a clinical trial with detailed neurobehavioral observation, as well as basic science studies to determine if cannabidiol holds therapeutic promise, and if so, via what mechanisms.”
Last Friday, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill into law expanding access for medical marijuana in Virginia. The law allows for practitioners to recommend CBD or THC-A oil for any condition they think would be beneficial to patients. Previously, only those suffering from intractable epilepsy could qualify for CBD or THC-A oil.
Additionally, the law allows any physician to recommend oil to his or her patients. Under the previous law, only neurologists and epilepsy specialists could give a recommendation for medical marijuana. HB 1251 is also considered emergency legislation and went into effect immediately.
We are excited about the many Virginia patients whose lives will be improved by this law.
On February 5, the Virginia Senate unanimously passed legislation that will permit doctors to recommend CBD or THC-A oil to their patients for any diagnosed condition or disease. The companion bill passed the House of Delegates unanimously on Friday, and the bill will now go to Gov. Ralph Northam, who is expected to sign it.
This bill expands Virginia’s CBD oil law, which previously limited the use of CBD oil to cases of “intractable epilepsy” only. This bill represents a major expansion of that program, allowing doctors to determine whether CBD or THC-A oil is right for any given patient. This law will provide relief to thousands of patients in the commonwealth and could help curb the ongoing opioid crisis in Virginia. We applaud all of the activists and patients who worked diligently to see this moment.
In the final weeks of signature collection, New Approach South Dakota is pushing forward to reach their goal. Two petitions are being circulated — one petition seeks to legalize marijuana for medical uses and the other to legalize certain amounts of marijuana for adult use and to regulate and tax marijuana establishments.
These ballot measures are of critical importance since the South Dakota Legislature has only taken a symbolic step toward patient access. A bill passed during the last session would hypothetically allow patients access to CBD oil, but the law includes a requirement that any recommended CBD oil be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which would indefinitely curtail access to the oil in South Dakota.
Furthermore, South Dakota’s marijuana possession laws may be the nation’s harshest. Specifically, individuals who have consumed marijuana elsewhere are subject to penalty if they test positive for past use — even if they consumed marijuana in a state where it was legal!
November 6 is the date to submit signed petitions, so if you haven’t added your signature, there is still a bit of time left! Check out New Approach South Dakota’s Facebook page for most up-to-date information on signing locations and events!
Colorado just added post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of qualifying conditions for the state's medical marijuana program.
The Cannabist reports:
Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday signed Senate Bill 17 into law. The bill opens the doors for Colorado residents to receive a doctor’s OK to use medical marijuana in the treatment of PTSD symptoms.
It’s the first new qualifying condition added under the state’s medical marijuana law since it was implemented in 2001. The state’s eight other qualifying conditions are: cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, cachexia, persistent muscle spasms, seizures, severe nausea, and severe pain.
The inclusion of PTSD among Colorado’s medical marijuana qualifying conditions has been a hotly contested issue of recent years.
Coordinated bids led by veterans groups fell short as the Colorado Board of Health quashed requests for PTSD’s inclusion and legislative measures languished in the General Assembly. The Colorado Board of Health has not added any new qualifying conditions since the medical marijuana law’s inception, citing lack of “peer-reviewed published studies of randomized controlled trials or well-designed observational studies showing efficacy in humans,” officials have previously told The Cannabist.
Proponents have argued that it’s not cost-effective for PTSD patients and it’s a risk to military veterans’ benefits to purchase recreational marijuana as a potential treatment for their ailments. Additionally, they argue that there is limited availability of suitable marijuana products — heavy in the non-psychoactive compound cannabidiol (CBD) and low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — that have been claimed effective for symptoms such as anxiety, nightmares and pain.
Twenty-five of the 29 states with medical marijuana programs now allow patients with PTSD to qualify. Bills to add PTSD to state medical marijuana programs have been approved and are now awaiting governors’ signatures in New Hampshire and Vermont.
Last week, the Iowa Legislature approved HF 524, extending and expanding the state's existing cannabidiol program. Now, all the bill needs is a signature from the governor to become law.
Although the Senate approved a full medical marijuana bill that allowed as much THC as patients might need, the House has lagged behind. HF 524 includes a 3% cap on THC. We are disappointed at the limits of the final bill, but it is still an important step forward.
If passed, patients suffering from illnesses such as Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or terminal illness would be able to enroll in a program with their doctor's authorization. Patients must be permanent residents of Iowa and would apply for their ID cards through the Department of Transportation. Unlike Iowa’s existing CBD program, manufacturers would be licensed to produce the oil, and dispensaries would be established where patients could make actual purchases, thus allowing in-state access to this life-changing medication.
If you are an Iowa resident, please ask Gov. Terry Branstad to sign the measure into law without delay.
Last week, the South Dakota State Senate passed Senate Bill 95, which would remove cannabidiol, or CBD oil, from the definition of marijuana and make it a Schedule IV controlled substance under state law. However, the bill included a requirement that CBD oil be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which would indefinitely curtail access to CBD oil in South Dakota.
On March 2, the House Health and Human Services Committee approved SB 95 by a vote of 7-3 and added an amendment eliminating prior FDA approval with the goal of increasing access for patients. MPP is closely monitoring SB 95 for potential problems, since pharmaceutical companies and their lobbyists are pushing the South Dakota Legislature to keep the FDA approval requirement in the bill.
Additionally, Senate Bill 129 was introduced with a total of 15 sponsors. This legislation would revise the penalty for ingestion of marijuana, which would undo South Dakota's uniquely severe law of criminalizing internal possession. However, the sponsors have unambiguously stated this is not a first step toward legalizing marijuana. Nonetheless, if enacted, this bill demonstrates a step toward reasonable regulatory laws relating to possession.