All four of the medical marijuana initiatives being considered by states on Election Night were approved by voters, adding to the considerable momentum of marijuana policy reform sweeping the country. Voters in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota approved initiatives for new medical marijuana programs, and Montana voted to significantly expand access and improve its existing program.
As of now, there are effective medical marijuana laws on the books in 28 states and the District of Columbia, covering 198 million Americans (or roughly 62% of the population). Patients in states without legal, safe, and reliable access to medical marijuana should continue to put pressure on their elected representatives to pass sensible reforms at the state and federal level. Together, we can make sure the seriously ill aren't treated like criminals for much longer.
The I-182 win not only rolls back those harmful provisions, it creates important new protections. Medical marijuana can be tested, regulators can issue licenses for businesses and inspect them, and workers also gain critical protections.
Today is the day! This is the biggest election in marijuana policy reform history, but even if you can't vote on a legalization or medical marijuana ballot initiative today, you could play an important part to make future progress possible in your state.
Before you vote, please check out MPP's voter guides if you live in the following places:
The Montana Supreme Court dealt a huge blow to thousands of patients last week in the legal challenge to the state’s medical marijuana law. Under the ruling, medical marijuana providers, known as caregivers, will be limited to two patients — or three if the caregiver is also a patient. By comparison, the average caregiver in Montana serves 14 patients.
In addition, the court ruled that doctors who recommend medical marijuana to 25 or more patients in a 12-month period will face an audit of their practice by the state. The only provision of the law the court blocked is the ban on compensation for caregivers. A copy of the ruling is available here.
We expect the Department of Public Health and Human Services will send letters out to patients and caregivers with more information, and those affected should watch the state’s website for updates.
It is possible the state legislature could reconsider its harmful law when it reconvenes in 2017. In addition, the Montana Cannabis Information Association, which brought the legal action, has vowed to take the matter to voters through a voter initiative aimed at the November 2016 election. Another initiative effort currently gathering signatures for this year’s election would legalize marijuana for all adult consumers 21 or over, similar to alcohol.
Two and half years ago, the Montana legislature gutted the 2004 voter-approved medical marijuana law and replaced it with a law that got as close to repeal as possible. Since then, the state has been fighting in the courts to defend its ill-considered law. Victory was finally handed to Montana patients this month when the presiding judge ruled that caregivers can continue to operate under the state’s marginally functional system. This means they can continue serving an unlimited number of patients — not just the three that the 2011 law allowed, in addition to other important provisions.
While the ruling allows patients at least some access to their medicine, it falls short of the sensible medical marijuana dispensary system that patients deserve, and that almost every other medical marijuana state now has.
Don’t allow the Montana legislature to ignore its responsibility to protect its citizens. Please pass this message to friends, family, and supporters and ask them to send a clear message to their state legislators!
Last week, the Department of Justice announced that it would not prioritize marijuana enforcement against businesses that were following state law and adhering to a set of criteria established by Deputy Attorney General James Cole. Given the administration's history with marijuana policy, there is a lot of speculation about what this memo will mean for the future of reform efforts and the legal marijuana industries in Colorado and Washington, as well as the 20 states and the District of Columbia that allow marijuana for medical purposes.
Here is an excerpt from an in-depth analysis by MPP's executive director Rob Kampia in the Los Angeles Times:
The Cole memo was the equivalent of no policy at all, since the federal government goes after very few individual marijuana users. In 2012, it sentenced only 83 marijuana-possession offenders to probation or prison, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Meanwhile, the DEA raided more medical marijuana providers during Obama's first term in office than it did during the eight years under President George W. Bush.
So what can we learn from the Obama administration's words and actions?
The key lesson is to write state-level marijuana laws correctly. There have been hundreds of outrageous DEA raids on medical marijuana clinics in California, Montana and Washington state, but these three states' laws don't explicitly authorize the clinics in the first place. (These states simply authorize patients and caregivers to grow their own.)
In contrast, there have been zero DEA raids on clinics in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont. In these states, plus the District of Columbia, there has been a clear licensing process for medical marijuana businesses.
MPP released a video last week listing the country's "Worst State Legislators of 2013" on marijuana policy issues. The seven state representatives and one state senator were selected based on their legislative efforts to maintain or expand marijuana prohibition policies, as well as statements they made, during the 2013 legislative sessions. Watch the video countdown below.
The Huffington Post reports:
The video counts down the MPP's top eight marijuana policy offenders, alongside some direct quotes that are questionable, to say the least.
Take, for instance, Rep. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), who called bongs and pipes "utensils of death;" Rep. Luke Malek (R-Coeur d'Alene) who called medical marijuana a "farcical predatory scheme;" and Rep. David Howard (R-Park City) -- whose home state of Montana has been battling a crippling meth epidemic -- who called marijuana a "poison" and "the most dangerous drug there is."
The list also garnered some local media attention in Colorado, where the #1 worst legislator of 2013, Sen. John Morse (D), is facing a highly talked-about recall election, and in Iowa, where the #7 worst legislator, Rep. Clel Baudler (R), bragged about being listed.