Prohibition

Texas Legislature has adjourned – more work to be done!

Earlier this week, the Texas Legislature adjourned after its 140-day legislative session. This year's session brought successes and setbacks. Prohibitionists went to great lengths to keep the status quo and some of their reefer madness unfortunately worked.

What Passed:

Industrial Hemp Legalization – HB 1325 legalizes industrial hemp in Texas and establishes a regulatory structure so that Texans may soon start growing hemp.

Limited Low-THC Medical Cannabis Expansion – HB 3703 removes the two-physician requirement for a medical marijuana card and expands the qualifying conditions to include: epilepsy, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, ALS, autism, terminal cancer, and incurable neurodegenerative diseases. It does not change the 0.5% THC cap. HB 3703 is currently on Gov. Greg Abbott's desk.

What Fell Short:

Marijuana Decriminalization – HB 63, which would have replaced possible jail time with a fine, passed in the Texas House but stalled in the Texas Senate after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made it his mission to kill the bill.

Comprehensive Medical Marijuana Expansion – HB 1365 would have expanded qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, increased the number of dispensaries, and established a research review board that could allow different amounts of cannabinoids. This bill passed in the Texas House but did not receive a hearing in the Senate.

Unfortunately, the Texas Legislature won't be back in session until 2021. That means two more years of patients suffering and needless arrests. We want to congratulate everyone who worked so hard to make progress, including Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.

Support for marijuana reform is at an all-time high so let's keep our chins up and keep pushing. Together, we can change marijuana laws in Texas.

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Medical Marijuana

Alabama Senate approves medical marijuana bill

If you live in Alabams, contact your House representative today!

Last week, the Alabama Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in the state. SB 236 would allow qualifying patients 19 and older to possess and purchase medical marijuana from authorized dispensaries.

Several conditions would qualify for medical marijuana treatment, including PTSD, chronic pain, cancer, autism, and epilepsy.

The bill will likely move to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration. Please contact your representative in the House in support of medical marijuana in Alabama today. Then, get the word out by forwarding this email to friends and family or by sharing the action link on social media.

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Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Governor Sign Medical Marijuana Improvements

On Thursday, Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed into law H.B. 1488, a bill to expand the existing medical marijuana dispensary program.

H.B. 1488 adds rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis to the list of qualifying conditions and allows patients and caregivers to access testing facilities. Patients and caregivers will be allowed to cultivate three additional plants of any maturity, for a total of 10 plants. The phasing out of caregivers’ ability to grow marijuana plants for patients has been pushed back five years, to the end of 2023.

The new law, which goes into effect on June 29, also authorizes the Department of Health to permit current licensees to open one additional dispensary — for a possible total of 24 statewide — and allows them to cultivate more plants at their production sites. It also amends certain deadlines and relaxes overly restrictive laboratory standards to accelerate implementation.

With the updated regulations, laboratories should find it easier to meet the requirements for certification. Several dispensaries are ready to start serving patients but cannot do so until they can submit their products for the required testing.

Congratulations and thank you to Gov. Ige, the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, and all of the advocates and lawmakers who made these improvements possible.

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Prohibition

Oklahoma Marijuana Policy Reforms Take Effect

Nov 02, 2016 Kate Bell

epilepsy, HB 2397, HB 2479, HB 2835, OK, Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt, THC

Three bills taking small but positive steps forward took effect  November 1, 2016, in Oklahoma.
The first bill, HB 2835, allows adults to use low-THC cannabis oil (minors were already covered by existing law), and added “spasticity due to multiple sclerosis or due to paraplegia, intractable nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation with chronic wasting diseases” to the list of qualifying conditions, in addition to severe epilepsy. The governor signed this bill on May 13, 2016. While this is a step forward, Oklahoma law does not include a source for in-state access to low-THC cannabis, and leaves most patients behindseal_of_oklahoma-svg

The second bill, HB 2397, increases the availability of expungement, for example by allowing the expungement of misdemeanors where the sentence was simply a fine of $500 or less.

HB 2479 also took effect Monday. It reduces the sentence for a second marijuana possession conviction by half, from a two-year mandatory minimum to a one-year mandatory minimum sentence of incarceration.

In other news, although signatures were not submitted in time for this year’s ballot, a medical marijuana provision has qualified to be on a future Oklahoma ballot. The campaign is embroiled in a lawsuit with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a foe of marijuana policy reform, over his rewriting of the ballot summary.

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Medical Marijuana

New Connecticut Medical Marijuana Provisions Take Effect

This week, a new law that improves Connecticut’s medical marijuana program went into effect. Among other changes, for the first time, certain patients who are under 18 now qualify to use medical cannabis in the Constitution state. Previously, Connecticut had been the only medical marijuana state to completely exclude seriously ill minors from its program.Seal_of_Connecticut.svg
To participate in the Connecticut medical marijuana program, minors must have been diagnosed with terminal illness, an irreversible spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, or severe or intractable epilepsy. In addition, they must have a written certification from two doctors — a primary care provider and a specialist. Finally, a parent or guardian must submit a written statement consenting to the patient using medical cannabis and agreeing to serve as the minor’s primary caregiver.
The new law extends legal protections to nurses who administer medical marijuana to patients in hospitals, and it also creates a research program. The department is now accepting research applications from hospitals, universities, dispensaries, and growers. Research subjects and employees of approved applicants will also have to register with the department.

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Medical Marijuana

Connecticut to Expand Medical Marijuana Access to Pediatric Patients

[caption id="attachment_9815" align="alignright" width="200"]malloy_bio_pic Gov. Dannel Malloy[/caption]

Earlier this month, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed HB 5450, which will make changes to Connecticut’s medical marijuana program including to allow certain patients who are under 18 to access medical cannabis. The bill previously passed the House 129 to 3 and the Senate 23 to 1.

To participate in Connecticut's medical marijuana program, minors will have to have been diagnosed with terminal illness, an irreversible spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, or severe or intractable epilepsy. In addition, they must have a written certification from two doctors — a primary care provider and a specialist. Finally, a parent or guardian must also submit a written statement of consent and attest that they will serve as the minor patient’s primary caregiver.

Connecticut first enacted medical marijuana legislation in 2012, but the law did not allow access for minor patients, many of whom would benefit greatly from access to this safe and effective treatment. Of the 24 states that have effective medical marijuana programs, Connecticut is the last state to exclude younger patients.

The new law will also extend legal protections to nurses who administer medical marijuana to patients in hospitals, and creates a research program. It goes into effect on October 1.

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Medical Marijuana

Limited Medical Cannabis Oil Bill Heads to Virginia Governor

Virginia is in its final week of its 2016 legislative session and of the many marijuana-related bills Virginian lawmakers considered this year, only one — SB 701 — has made it to the desk of Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

[caption id="attachment_9639" align="alignright" width="200"] Gov. Terry McAuliffe[/caption]

This limited bill allows the cultivation of cannabis by pharmaceutical processes that would then produce cannabidiol oil. Patients suffering from intractable epilepsy could receive the oil with a written certification from their doctor. While Gov. McAuliffe is expected to sign the legislation, epileptic patients won’t receive any benefit until at least 2017, as the bill requires a second passage next year.

While MPP applauds the Commonwealth’s effort to bring relief to residents suffering from epilepsy, this measure does not go nearly far enough. If you are a resident of Virginia, please ask your elected officials to show compassion for our sickest residents, including those with other serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, intractable pain, and PTSD. Medical marijuana is far less harmful and poses fewer negative side effects than most prescription drugs — especially painkillers — and patients often find it to be a more effective treatment.

We celebrate this narrow victory and look forward to a future where patients can benefit from the expertise of their doctors by finding relief in medical cannabis.

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Medical Marijuana

Georgia Representative Working to Fix Medical Marijuana Program

Feb 04, 2016 Chris Lindsey

Allen Peake, epilepsy, GA, Georgia, medical

The Georgia government enacted an ineffective law last year that was intended to provide relief to patients with epilepsy, but which didn't provide for a source of medical marijuana within the state.

[caption id="attachment_9564" align="alignright" width="220"]allen_peake Rep. Allen Peake[/caption]

Since then, state Rep. Allen Peake (R) publicly admitted to illegally transporting medical marijuana from Colorado to Georgia to help some parents with epileptic children, and he's now pushing hard to fix the ineffective law by legalizing dispensaries for patients to purchase medical marijuana.

If you are a Georgia resident, please tell your lawmakers to support a workable medical marijuana bill. 

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Medical Marijuana

Gov. Markell Signs Bill Allowing Seriously Ill Minors to Access Medical Marijuana Program

On Tuesday,  Gov. Jack Markell (D) signed SB 90 — Rylie’s Law — into law. Gov. Markell’s approval is yet another sign of Delaware lawmakers understanding the benefits that medical marijuana holds for seriously ill patients of all ages. Not one lawmaker opposed this new law

[caption id="attachment_8923" align="alignright" width="200"]Lopez_Ernie_AMG_3615 Sen. Ernesto Lopez[/caption]

Introduced by Sen. Ernesto Lopez (R), SB 90 is now Delaware law. Doctors may now recommend medical marijuana oils to certain patients under the age of 18. To qualify, the young patients must suffer from intractable epilepsy or a medical condition that has not responded to other treatments and that involves wasting, intractable nausea, or severe, painful, and persistent muscle spasms. This compassionate proposal recognizes the sad truth that kids face serious illnesses, too, and it gives doctors one more legal option to help them find relief.

The governor and the General Assembly have joined respected organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics in recognizing that medical cannabis may be appropriate for minors in certain circumstances. The compassion shown by lawmakers from across the state in enacting this bill means many seriously ill children and their families have one more legal option to help ease their symptoms. But it would not have been possible without the compassion of all Delawareans who wrote to their elected officials in support of this bill.

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Medical Marijuana

Texas Governor Signs Limited Medical Marijuana Bill

[caption id="attachment_8849" align="alignright" width="223"]Greg_Abbott_by_Gage_Skidmore Gov. Greg Abbot (PHOTO: Gage Skidmore)[/caption]

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law Monday that recognizes the medical benefits of marijuana. SB 339, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler), is intended to allow patients with intractable seizure conditions to access marijuana extracts containing high levels of cannabidiol (CBD) and only trace levels of THC.

SB 339 requires doctors to “prescribe” low-THC marijuana extracts to patients, which exposes doctors to federal criminal sanctions. By contrast, doctors “recommend” medical marijuana or “certify” patients to use medical marijuana in the 23 states with comprehensive medical marijuana laws and the District of Columbia. Unlike “prescriptions,” recommendations and certifications are federally legal and protected under the First Amendment.

The bill also only allows for extracts with very little THC, and some seizure patients say a greater ratio of THC to CBD is necessary for it to be effective in reducing the frequency and severity of seizures. The bill also fails to allow access to any medical marijuana products for people suffering from other debilitating conditions, such as PTSD, cancer, and multiple sclerosis, for which medical marijuana has been found to have significant medical benefits.

Despite SB 339’s significant limitations, advocates supported Gov. Abbott signing it into law and promptly implementing the program. It has frequently taken as long as two to three years for patients to begin safely accessing medical cannabis preparations after state medical marijuana laws are enacted. First, rules need to be crafted for the operation of dispensaries, then there is an application process, and finally the providers must find locations, build out their facilities, and begin cultivation.

While this low-THC cannabis oil program is very restrictive, the passage of SB 339, Texas’ Compassionate Use Act, is an historic moment that reflects the great work done by advocates. Here is an overview of the program.

The 84th Texas Legislature introduced a record number of marijuana related bills. The results varied — details can be found here — but there can be no doubt that more humane marijuana laws are on the horizon.

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