Prohibition

Good and Bad Bills on the Table in Arizona

The Arizona Legislature began its 2018 legislative session last week, and lawmakers already have several marijuana bills to consider. Unfortunately, many would undermine the existing medical marijuana program.

HB 2068 would allow prosecutors to determine whether individuals on parole or probation can access medical marijuana, despite a 2015 state Supreme Court decision that held medical marijuana could not be withheld from patients under those circumstances. Another bill, SB 1060, would make it a felony and a $10,000 fine for anyone who publishes the address of a dispensary that is different from that on file, including typos!

Lawmakers should be improving patient access, not creating new obstacles.

Meanwhile, in a move toward improving marijuana policies, Rep. Mark Cardenas has introduced HB 2014, which would reduce the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana to $100. Please urge your state legislators to support HB 2014!

Imprisoning individuals for possessing small amounts of a substance that is safer than alcohol wastes valuable resources and can lead to a lifetime of harsh consequences, including denial of student financial aid, housing, employment, and professional licenses.

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Prohibition

Supreme Court Dismisses States' Lawsuit Against Colorado

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed Nebraska and Oklahoma’s lawsuit challenging Colorado’s marijuana regulation laws.

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The decision is available here.

The attorneys general for Nebraska and Oklahoma filed the lawsuit directly with the Supreme Court in December 2014, arguing that the state’s decision to regulate the cultivation and distribution of marijuana was “placing stress on their criminal justice systems.” The Colorado and U.S. governments both filed briefs urging the court to dismiss the suit. Oklahoma Republicans also urged their attorney general to drop the suit.

Associated Press reports:

For now, the many states considering pot laws this year won’t have immediate guidance from the nation’s high court about whether they’re free to flout federal drug law by regulating the drug.

Instead, the 26 states and Washington, D.C., that allow marijuana for medical or recreational purposes don’t have any immediate roadblocks on their marijuana laws.

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Marijuana legalization advocates immediately seized on the Supreme Court’s announcement as a signal that states are free to legalize marijuana if they wish.

“States have every right to regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana, just as Nebraska and Oklahoma have the right to maintain their failed prohibition policies,” said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project.

“Colorado has done more to control marijuana than just about any other state in the nation. It will continue to set an example for other states that are considering similar laws in legislatures and at the ballot box.”

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Medical Marijuana

Montana Court Ruling Hurts Medical Marijuana Program

[caption id="attachment_9611" align="alignright" width="250"]4fc776dcf0f83.image Montana Supreme Court (Photo: Eliza Wiley)[/caption]

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.

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Prohibition

Mexico Moving Closer to Making Marijuana Legal

Our neighbor to the South is one step closer to making marijuana legal after a recent court ruling!

The New York Times reports:

The Mexican Supreme Court opened the door to legalizing marijuana on Wednesday, delivering a pointed challenge to the nation’s strict substance abuse laws and adding its weight to the growing debate in Latin America over the costs and consequences of the war against drugs.Mexico_Flag_Map.svg

The vote by the court’s criminal chamber declared that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use. While the ruling does not strike down current drug laws, it lays the groundwork for a wave of legal actions that could ultimately rewrite them, proponents of legalization say.

The decision reflects a changing dynamic in Mexico, where for decades the American-backed war on drugs has produced much upheaval but few lasting victories. Today, the flow of drugs to the United States continues, along with the political corruption it fuels in Mexico. The country, dispirited by the ceaseless fight with traffickers, remains engulfed in violence.

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The marijuana case has ignited a debate about the effectiveness of imprisoning drug users, in a country with some of the most conservative drug laws in Latin America. But across the region, a growing number of voices are questioning Washington’s strategy in the drug war. With little to show for tough-on-crime policies, the balance appears to be slowly shifting toward other approaches.

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Prohibition

Connecticut Steadily Expunging Past Marijuana Convictions

ConnecticutFlag_of_Connecticut.svg has been removing prior marijuana convictions for the vast majority of people who apply since a recent state Supreme Court decision.

Associated Press reports:

Connecticut judges have granted more than 80 percent of requests to erase marijuana possession convictions since the state decriminalized small amounts of pot in 2011, state Judicial Branch records show.

Superior Court judges have approved 32 of 39 petitions to erase convictions for marijuana possession in the past four years, after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and state lawmakers downgraded possession of less than a half-ounce of pot from a misdemeanor with potential jail time to a violation akin to a parking ticket, with fines ranging from $150 for a first offense to up to $500 for subsequent offenses.

Although the number of erasures is small compared with the thousands of arrests for marijuana possession in Connecticut over the years, defense lawyers expect many more people to apply as word spreads about a recent state Supreme Court decision. The court ruled in March that people have the right to get their convictions erased.

Similar efforts to remove past convictions are underway throughout the country, but little progress has been made so far.

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General

Slate of Marijuana Bills Under Consideration in Florida

Shortly after the Florida Supreme Court cleared the way for the medical marijuana ballot initiative to appear on the November ballot, lawmakers in Tallahassee took note and introduced a flurry of legislation to sensibly reform the Sunshine State’s marijuana laws. A bill to allow patients with devastating seizure disorders to use high CBD marijuana was the first to be filed. While this bill is an improvement on the status quo, it will also leave many patients without access to effective medicine.

Thankfully, Sen. Jeff Clemens and Rep. Joe Saunders realize this flaw and have introduced comprehensive medical marijuana legislation that would finally bring Florida in line with the growing list of compassionate states that treat, rather than jail, patients. 

[caption id="attachment_7371" align="alignright" width="144"]Randolph Bracy Rep. Randolph Bracy[/caption]

Finally, legislation was introduced yesterday by Rep. Randolph Bracy to end Florida’s prohibition of marijuana, replacing it with a system that regulates and taxes adult sales, similarly to our alcohol laws. This proposal will finally allow Florida to control who is selling marijuana, where, and to whom. It will also allow the state to collect tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue on adult sales, while striking an economic blow to the criminal organizations that currently monopolize the marijuana market. 

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General

Alaska OKs Ballot Initiative Application to Legalize Marijuana for Adults

Following the approval of a ballot initiative application on Friday, it seems that Alaska may be the next state to legalize marijuana for adults.

[caption id="attachment_6604" align="alignright" width="160"]LtGovenor Mead Treadwell Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell[/caption]

On June 14, Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell certified a ballot initiative application that would put the question of whether to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol up to state voters. In order to appear on next year’s ballot, the initiative must receive 30,169 signatures from qualified voters.

The proposal would create state-regulated marijuana stores, cultivation facilities, and the option for Alaska’s legislature to create a Marijuana Control Board tasked with overseeing the industry. It would also allow adults to grow up to six marijuana plants.

Petition sponsor Tim Hinterberger stated that advocates hope to finish collecting signatures by January in order to get the petition on the primary ballot.

If the proposal passes, it would help to clear up Alaskans’ confusion over some of the nation’s most contradictory marijuana laws. In 1975, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that possession of less than four ounces in the home was protected from criminal sanctions by the state constitution’s right to privacy. However, in 2006, the legislature passed a bill criminalizing the possession of even small amounts of marijuana. Meanwhile, the state is one of 18 that allows patients to access medical marijuana.

Mason Tvert, a spokesman for MPP, is quoted in the Huffington Post as saying that this proposal is not a “blanket protection for marijuana possession… In order to have a system where individuals can go to the store, buy an ounce of marijuana, drive home, and enjoy it at home, it is necessary to make up to an ounce of marijuana entirely legal.”

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Medical Marijuana

Michigan Supreme Court Protects Medical Marijuana Patients

May 22, 2013 Kate Zawidzki

driving, DUID, Michigan, Rdoney Koon, Supreme Court, THC

In a crucial win for patients in Michigan, the state Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the state’s zero tolerance driving under the influence law does not apply to medical marijuana patients when it is based on the mere presence of THC in a patient’s blood stream. Because THC can remain in a person’s system for days after it is consumed, the only other result would have meant that thousands of medical marijuana patients would be driving illegally simply for having used their medicine hours or days earlier.

[caption id="attachment_6462" align="alignright" width="128"]Rodney Koon Rodney Koon[/caption]

Rodney Koon — a medical marijuana patient — was stopped while driving and later accused of a DUI because he had THC in his system. He said he had not used his medicine in six hours. The state Supreme Court found that under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act — which was drafted by MPP — a registered patient cannot be penalized or arrested for the “internal possession” of marijuana, so long as the patient complies with the requirements of the law. The initiative’s protections trump the state’s zero tolerance law for registered patients. The court noted the law does not allow patients to drive when they are under the influence of marijuana.

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Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Initiative Cleared for Ballot in November!

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a medical marijuana voter initiative can remain on the state’s ballot for the upcoming elections. The Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values had brought suit against the initiative, claiming that its proposed description on the ballot was misleading, in that it did not sufficiently emphasize the illegality of marijuana under federal law. The proposed language has already been revised more than once in response to similar comments from the state’s attorney general. The court characterized the ballot summary for Arkansans for Compassionate Care’s initiative as “an adequate and fair representation without misleading tendencies or partisan coloring,” dismissing the conservative coalition’s complaint.

If the initiative, known as Issue 5, is successful, medical marijuana patients approved by the state’s Department of Health would be authorized to possess marijuana, as well as to cultivate a limited number of plants for their own use. They would also be permitted to purchase the drug from any of a maximum of 30 non-profit dispensaries. The approved summary of the initiative mentions specific diseases for which marijuana could be authorized as a treatment, including AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, ALS, PTSD, and Crohn’s disease, as well as any “chronic or debilitating” disease which produces particular symptoms including severe nausea, chronic pain, wasting, persistent muscle spasms, or seizures. The measure has a slight lead in the polls.

Arguments from opponents of the issue were based on speculation or distraction rather than medicine. Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council Action Committee, a member of the coalition which filed suit against the measure, claimed that the “real agenda” of the initiative was to completely legalize marijuana. He based this on the fact that many supporters of medical marijuana also support farther-reaching marijuana law reform. Larry Page, the director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, another member of the coalition, made a similar red-herring argument, calling it “the first incremental step to legalizing marijuana for recreational use.”

But the question on the ballot, of course, deals with the medical use of marijuana for serious illnesses, which the scientific evidence supports. Cox further claimed in complete seriousness that since smoking tobacco is harmful for your health, medical marijuana must be useless and even harmful. He added the claims that marijuana is addictive and that marijuana use would increase if medical use were allowed. Studies show, however, that relaxing criminal penalties has no effect on usage rates, while the Institute of Medicine states that if marijuana dependence exists, it is mild and rare compared to most other drugs. Voters will hopefully see through the coalition’s claims to the contrary, making Arkansas the 18th state in the U.S., and the first in the South, to recognize the medical value of marijuana.

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Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Activist and Cancer Patient Angel Raich Thrown Out of Hospital for Vaporizing Marijuana

Well, it doesn’t get much more despicable than this. Yesterday, a registered medical marijuana patient with terminal cancer was forced to leave UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco because she was using a vaporizer to ingest her medicine.

A spokesperson for the hospital claimed that use of the vaporizer violated their non-smoking policy. First of all, vaporizing is NOT smoking!

Then, the hospital claimed that even marijuana in vapor form can damage the lungs of other patients. I challenge the hospital to deliver evidence of this, especially considering that a recent study shows marijuana, even smoked marijuana, has little effect on long-term pulmonary function. To the best of my knowledge, there is no data showing any second-hand effects from vaporized marijuana.

This patient happened to be none other than Angel Raich, a long-time medical marijuana activist who battled the federal government in the U.S. Supreme Court for the right to use marijuana to treat the symptoms of her incurable brain tumor.

Marijuana is an accepted medicine in the state of California. For a state university hospital to threaten a terminally ill patient with arrest and federal prosecution, instead of making accommodations so that the patient could use her medicine, is inexcusable.

Just to give you another example of people being denied treatment simply because they use marijuana to treat their conditions, here is a video from our friends at Reason about a man who was taken off a kidney transplant list because he used a legal medicine that his doctor recommended.

What happened to the Hippocratic Oath?

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