Lawmakers make major improvements to cannabis policy in 2019.
Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) signed into law three notable bills to improve cannabis policies this year. Here is a quick overview and why they are so important:
AB 132 prohibits most employers from denying applicants a job if cannabis shows up on a pre-employment drug test. This bill addresses a big concern — cannabis use can be detected for weeks after ingestion, meaning drug screens in no way correlate with impairment. So far, states have been generally unwilling to change employment standards, even when cannabis use is legal outside work hours. This bill is a major development for Nevadans, and MPP wants to see other states take notice.
SB 430 was signed into law last week and expands the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis. The bill adds forms of autism, anxiety, and chronic pain — in addition to severe pain, which was already included. A key addition were those individuals who are "dependent upon or addicted to opioids," making medical cannabis an alternative to anyone at risk while taking prescription narcotic medication. This is part of a trend we see around the country, and it's great to see Nevada added to the list of states offering this important alternative.
AB 192 allows individuals to have their past convictions sealed if the conduct — such as marijuana possession — has been legalized or decriminalized. While this is not as expansive as completely removing the conviction, sealing can significantly reduce the stigma and collateral consequences lingering from the failed war on cannabis.
MPP is proud to have led Nevada's legalization initiative in 2016 and important improvements to the medical cannabis law in 2013. Today, lawmakers are making sensible improvements to those programs, and more importantly, the medical and adult-use programs continue to serve the state and its residents.
The Associated Press reported today that some of the nation's biggest colleges have been reducing their penalties for student athletes who test positive for marijuana.
At least one-third of the Power Five conference schools are not punishing athletes as harshly as they were 10 years ago for testing positive for marijuana and other so-called recreational drugs, according to an investigation by The Associated Press.
The AP analyzed policies for 57 of the 65 schools in the Southeastern, Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences, plus Notre Dame.
Of the 57 schools, 23 since 2005 have either reduced penalties or allowed an athlete to test positive more times before being suspended or dismissed. Ten schools have separate, less stringent policies addressing only marijuana infractions.
Click here to read the entire article.
Since 2011, the NFL has been internally debating its drug policy, which includes testing for human growth hormones. If the current revisions to the drug policy are approved, the threshold for a positive marijuana test will be significantly increased, and punishments for violating the policy will be reduced.
The delay in these changes to the NFL policy stems from a “continued standoff over arbitration of discipline,” according to ESPN. “In cases of non-analytical positives (i.e., an Alex Rodriguez-type case in which a player is found to be in violation of the drug policy by some method other than a failed test) or in cases of violations of law (i.e., a player getting caught trying to smuggle prescription drugs across the Canadian border), the NFLPA has asked that discipline appeals be heard by an independent arbitrator.”
However, the NFL insists that the commissioner (Roger Goodell) has final say over disciplinary matters. Once this power struggle over the administration of discipline is resolved, the changes to the NFL’s drug policy should go into effect.
The Legislative Council of the NCAA approved a measure that would reduce the penalty for a positive marijuana drug test. Currently, college athletes face a full year suspension if caught using marijuana, but, after August 1st of this year, the suspension will be reduced to half of a year.
NCAA reasoned that marijuana is not “performance-enhancing in nature, and this change will encourage schools to provide student-athletes the necessary rehabilitation." The change in policy distances marijuana from being seen equally to steroid use and treats the issue “the same as academic fraud." This change clearly reflects the national shift on attitudes about marijuana towards decriminalization rather than strict punishment.
However, individual schools and conferences can still set whatever harsher penalties they like for their players. Since the NCAA only tests for marijuana during championships, it's fairly easy for an athlete to stop smoking marijuana a month before the NCAA Tournament to test negative.
“But if the NCAA would get out of the morality business when it comes to things like substances, and stay in the business of making sure competition is fair and not tainted by PEDs, I think it would be better for everyone,” Glenn Logan said in an article for SB Nation. “After all, we don't test regular scholarship students for marijuana, so why should student-athletes be singled out?”
Earlier today, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that temporarily halted the enforcement of a Florida law requiring that all welfare recipients be drug tested in order to receive benefits.
We have addressed this issue in the past on this blog, and it is good to see the 11th Circuit supporting the lower court’s decision. Drug testing in this fashion is an invasion of privacy, and in most cases ends up costing the taxpayers far more than is saved by denying benefits to the very few people who test positive.
Once again, Obama’s DOJ shows no sympathy for medical marijuana patients.
Last April, 12 HIV/AIDS activists were arrested outside of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office as they protested funding cuts to HIV/AIDS and needle exchange programs in D.C. The protesters were offered the standard “Deferred Prosecution Agreement,” requiring them to stay away from the Cannon House Office Building for six months, perform 32 hours of community service, and test negative in three drug tests. If they were able to meet these requirements, the charges against them would be dropped.
Within three months, all of the protestors had completed their community service hours, and 10 of the 12 successfully produced negative drug tests. And this is where the story gets complicated …
Two of the protestors, Antonio Davis and David Goode, used medical marijuana, recommended by their physicians, to deal with pain and other side effects caused by their HIV/AIDS treatment regimens. And though both men submitted letters from their doctors verifying their need for medical marijuana and, moreover, were assured by a judge that marijuana would not be screened for, the U.S. attorney for the District refused to honor the original deal spelled out in the Deferred Prosecution Agreement.
Now, the case has been transferred from one prosecutor to another and yet another, with each new prosecutor setting new conditions and requiring more community service time from the protestors. All of the protestors are now being required to complete a third 32-hour stretch of community service … or go to trial.
But because of failed drug screenings, medical marijuana patients Davis and Goode don’t have this option. They must go to trial and could face up to six months in jail. Meanwhile, Davis has stopped using his doctor-recommended marijuana and is suffering both mentally (worrying about possible consequences of a conviction) and physically (losing 20 pounds) because of it.
It’s insane that federal prosecutors are treating these medical marijuana patients so harshly. Marijuana has continually been shown to reduce the nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite caused by HIV/AIDS and by the various medications used to treat HIV/AIDS. Observational research has found that by relieving these side effects, medical marijuana improves the likelihood that patients will adhere to life-prolonging treatments. Furthermore, clinical trials have shown that marijuana can significantly reduce a specific type of pain that often afflicts patients with HIV/AIDS — neuropathy, a painful nerve condition for which there are currently no FDA-approved treatments. (Visit the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research website to view more studies on marijuana’s therapeutic value.)
The story here is just another piece to add to the very puzzling pattern of the Obama administration burying its head in the sand. In the past several months, the administration has cracked down on patients and providers, refused to let a clinical study proceed, and continued to ignore medical evidence … evidence that medical marijuana actually helps sick people! The story here is but one glimpse into the suffering caused by federal obstinance in regard to medical marijuana, and as the old saying goes, “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
Last week, the political blustering of federal lawmakers once again resulted in a law that unfairly targets marijuana users without any proof of effectiveness. On Friday, Congress reached a payroll and benefits deal that allows states to drug test any person applying for unemployment benefits if that person is looking for work in a field where drug testing is commonplace.
Thankfully, states have the option to not take part in this plan. The recent surge in states considering such policies, however, may mean that they may soon become much more common.
Florida’s experience with drug testing people applying for public benefits should have been a wake-up call for lawmakers. After passing a bill requiring unemployment beneficiaries to submit drug tests, Florida authorities soon discovered that not only was drug use extremely rare among those applying for assistance, but drug testing was actually costing the taxpayers more money! The whole point of the law was to decrease costs, so that tough-on-crime politicians could grandstand about how tax dollars in their districts aren’t buying drugs for lazy people.
Congress really needs to stop wasting its time worrying about the tiny percentage of people on public assistance that are marijuana users and instead consider all the taxpayer money they are wasting by arresting people for marijuana use at all.
Last month, we asked you for your take on laws that require welfare recipients to take and pass a drug test in order to receive benefits. It was a hot topic, generating more comments than any blog posting since the U.S. attorney crackdown in California. We also set up a survey, which over 700 of you responded to.
So, what were the results? The vast majority of you, about 74%, were opposed to drug testing aid recipients altogether. The rest of you split roughly evenly between support for testing recipients for all drugs and support for testing for “hard drugs,” but not marijuana. The survey results skewed along the same lines as the views of our commenters, most of whom were opposed to testing altogether. Here’s a sampling of some other thoughts from our commenters:
Commenter Justin wants to look past ideology and focus on results:
Of course we would all likely prefer people receiving government assistance not use that aid to purchase anything besides the bare essentials. And if there were any indication that drug testing prevents drug use I would fully endorse its use. But the reality is every indication points to drug testing as being a very poor deterrent to drug use, in other words it simply doesn’t work
Reader David says if you’re going to drug test, do it consistently and equally:
I think anybody who receives government money, this includes all politicians and elected officials, should be subjected to random drug screens. What’s fair is fair.
Many of you agreed with Patrick in singling out companies that conduct testing:
… the real beneficiary of drug testing welfare recipients is the dirty drug testing industry who I personally would love to see destroyed … We all know that the drug testing industry lobbies hard to maintain marijuana prohibition as they have a vested interest in doing so.
Thanks to all of you for responding to the survey and to those of you who took extra time to leave your thoughts in the comments section. As an organization focused on optimizing policy with respect to marijuana, we agree with the overwhelming majority of our members that drug testing aid recipients is intrusive, ineffective, and wasteful, and we will continue advocating against bills that require testing as a condition for receiving benefits.
We welcome our supporters’ feedback on this and other issues. If you’d like to share your opinion, leave your comments here at the blog or contact us directly. We can’t do our work without you, so it’s important to us that we have your support. Thanks again!
Two cases involving medical marijuana patients have reached the supreme courts of their respective states, and their results could have far-reaching implications for medical marijuana in the future.
In Washington, the state Supreme Court announced it will hear the appeal of a woman who was fired from her job at a telephone call center for testing positive for marijuana on a workplace drug test, despite being a registered medical marijuana patient. While the medical marijuana law in Washington does not protect patients using marijuana in the workplace, the patient had never used her medicine while on the job, and did not work in a role where residual intoxication could prove dangerous to others. Her employer terminated her for using a medicine that she was legally allowed to use in her own home.
It is not known whether this company, Teletech, has fired employees for testing positive for other controlled substances that they have been using legally on the advice of a physician. My guess is they have not.
The final ruling in this case will clarify the rights of employers and employees in medical marijuana states and will no doubt influence the language of future bills, as will the case of Joseph Casias, a Michigan medical marijuana patient who was fired under similar circumstances.
And on March 3, the Oregon Supreme Court will tackle the case of Cynthia Willis, a medical marijuana patient and long-time holder of a concealed-carry handgun permit. Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters denied Willis' permit renewal after he learned that she was a patient, citing conflict with federal law barring drug users from possessing firearms.
So far, the lower courts have sided with Ms. Willis. Let's hope the highest court in the state does, too. People should never be denied their constitutional rights simply because they are sick.