MPP is excited to be moving into 2018 at a time when marijuana policy reform has unprecedented momentum. While there are sure to be challenges ahead, MPP is confident that we will make great strides this year.
You can find the strategic plan here.
In a great sign of things to come, one of our goals is already on the verge of success. On Thursday, the Vermont legislature passed a bill that would make possession and limited home cultivation legal in the Green Mountain State! The bill is expected to be signed into law in the coming weeks.
New York recently expanded its medical marijuana program by adding chronic pain, but there is an important group of patients who are still left out — those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Twenty-four of the 29 states with medical marijuana programs allow patients with PTSD to qualify, but New York still does not. A 7006 and S 5629 would change that; please ask your legislators to support these bills.
Last week, the Assembly Health Committee voted unanimously to approve A 7006, and it now heads to the Assembly floor.
There are only two drugs that are FDA-approved to treat PTSD, and neither has been shown to be more effective than a placebo. Both of these drugs, and others commonly prescribed “off-label,” have dangerous side effects that cannabis does not. Many veterans — including an estimated 20% of those who served in Iraq — suffer from PTSD, which leads to the tragically high suicide rate among returning veterans. Shouldn't those who have served our country have access to any treatment that might help ease their suffering?
Now that medical marijuana cards are finally being issued to qualifying patients in New Hampshire, one lawmaker is working to make sure others who could benefit are not left behind. On Thursday, Assemblyman Joe Lachance introduced a bill that would add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of qualifying conditions.
Al Jazeera America reports:
The proposed legislation comes as New Hampshire grapples with an opioid and heroin addiction and overdose crisis. Medical marijuana advocates argue that better access to cannabis would offer an alternative means of pain relief to people now using painkillers or heroin. In 2015 the state’s medical examiner attributed 385 deaths to opiates, almost double the 192 fatalities in 2013, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.
Also, adding PTSD to the list of illnesses approved for cannabis treatment could provide another option to people who’ve found no relief with standard anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication, advocates say.
Joe Lachance, a Republican state assemblyman who co-sponsored the PTSD measure, is one of the 62 medical marijuana cardholders in the state of 1.6 million people. A military veteran and former police officer, Lachance said he suffers from chronic pain and PTSD, ailments only marijuana has helped ease. He also said marijuana helped him kick an opiate habit.
This week, University of Arizona professor and leading medical marijuana researcher Dr. Sue Sisley was fired from her position at the university. The University of Arizona refused to renew Dr. Sisley’s contract after advocates engaged in a contentious political struggle with state lawmakers to secure funding for her clinical study on the beneficial effects of marijuana on veterans with PTSD. Dr. Sisley cites her medical marijuana advocacy and research as the reason for her abrupt dismissal. The university’s action will significantly delay — or even end — her groundbreaking research, which had finally received almost all of the necessary federal approvals.
According to the LA Times:
Sisley charges she was fired after her research – and her personal political crusading – created unwanted attention for the university from legislative Republicans who control its purse strings.
“This is a clear political retaliation for the advocacy and education I have been providing the public and lawmakers,” Sisley said. “I pulled all my evaluations and this is not about my job performance.”
In March, the National Institute on Drug Abuse moved to approve Sisley's research. The decision came as a surprise because some researchers have long accused the institute of hostility to proposals aimed at examining the possible health benefits of marijuana.
Sisley’s study was designed to involve veterans who would use marijuana in an observation facility on campus. She had lobbied state lawmakers for approval to use state funds collected at medical marijuana dispensaries to help pay for the work. When a powerful Republican senator maneuvered to block that money, some of Sisley’s allies launched an unsuccessful recall effort.
Dr. Sisley has long been at the forefront of medical marijuana science, often traveling to testify in legislative hearings to support compassionate bills and derail the misinformation that is so often repeated by opponents of reform. MPP wishes her luck in appealing this decision and continuing her valuable research.
Rep. Lou Lang recently introduced SB 1955, which would amend Illinois’ brand-new medical marijuana law. It would add important new protections for veterans and for patients who use non-smoked forms of marijuana, though it would also make some negative changes.
Many patients rely on non-smoked forms of medical marijuana, including edibles, tinctures, and topicals. These products use extractions from the marijuana plant, and SB 1955 would clarify that “resin extractions” are included in the protections of the law.
Meanwhile, veterans who receive treatment from the VA may not be able to qualify under the current law because the federal government doesn’t allow its physicians to make medical marijuana recommendations. SB 1955 would allow veterans to register as patients without including their physicians' written recommendations.
Unfortunately, SB 1955 would also remove two qualifying medical conditions – RSD and CRPS – which opponents believe might allow for abuse. However, causalgia would remain as a condition. Also, EMTs would be prohibited from becoming patients. While we oppose these restrictions, as a whole, we feel the bill would do more good than harm.
SB 281, a bill adding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition for the use of medical marijuana, has cleared its last hurdle and is headed to the floor of the Oregon State Senate for a vote tomorrow.
SB 281 is an important bill that adds another tool in treating traumatic stress not just for veterans but for first responders and victims of domestic violence alike.
Numerous studies have found that marijuana can be an effective treatment for severe PTSD symptoms — a condition suffered by 20 percent of soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to 2008 RAND Corporation study.
We have an opportunity to make a long-needed change in the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act. Help pass SB 281 out of the Senate and into the House.
If you are an Oregon resident, please contact your senator now to ask him or her to support SB 281!
We’ve written previously about the U.S. Veterans Administration’s disgraceful policy of not allowing its doctors to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans, even if they live in a state where medical marijuana is legal or suffer from a condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects one in five vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and studies have shown can be relieved through marijuana.
Yesterday, former Nebraska senator and governor and Vietnam veteran Bob Kerrey joined the growing call for the VA to change its stance and work to give veterans the care they deserve. In this very thoughtful piece in the Huffington Post, Kerrey and co-author Jason Flom call the VA’s policy “counterproductive and harmful.”
“The ban means that—despite their service to our country—veterans who reside in the 14 states that have legalized medical marijuana are denied the same rights as every other resident of these states,” they continue. “At minimum, the VA should be actively studying whether cannabis and its unique chemical ingredients can be used to reduce post-combat trauma without contributing to drug dependency. Ample research and anecdote strongly suggest this is the case.”
The HuffPo piece includes comments from talk show host Montel Williams, himself a Marine and Navy veteran, as well as Army veteran Paul Culkin from New Mexico, who was recently interviewed on NPR’s “Morning Edition” about the issue.
Culkin’s New Mexico has added PTSD to its list of qualifying conditions for patients, while an effort to do so in neighboring Colorado fell short this year.
But the real outrage here is that the VA’s policy is being directed by the DEA, which has made threats to prosecute VA doctors who recommend medical marijuana in defiance of federal law, even if they are complying with state law. And by not letting vets use marijuana, many are being steered toward more dangerous prescription drugs, or alcohol.
As more veterans like Kerrey, Williams, and Culkin speak out against this double standard (civilian doctors in medical marijuana states are not arrested for recommending medical marijuana), hopefully they can increase pressure on officials and bring about some sort of policy change.
A story out of New Mexico yesterday sheds light on the dilemma facing many veterans who could benefit from medical marijuana and rely solely on the Department of Veterans Affairs for their health care.
Taking guidance from the DEA, the VA does not allow its doctors to recommend medical marijuana. Those who do will face civil and criminal penalties, in addition to the loss of their license. (Veterans can still try to obtain a recommendation from an outside physician.)
This policy is unchanged in states where medical marijuana is legal, such as New Mexico, where the most common affliction of those enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program is post-traumatic stress disorder—something experienced by one in five returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a 2008 study.
But rather than help veterans access such safe and effective treatment, the VA’s current policy, according to one veteran, has forced many sufferers of PTSD to rely on more addictive prescription drugs, or self-medication with alcohol and other dangerous substances.
Is this really how we want to treat the veterans of our armed services?