Medical Marijuana

Maine Legislature overrides Gov. LePage on medical marijuana reform

July 26th, 2018 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

Earlier this month, the Maine Legislature overrode Gov. LePage’s vetoes of LD 238 and LD 1539, bills to improve Maine’s medical marijuana program. LD 238 allows for third-party extraction of medical marijuana. LD 1539 is the culmination of the Health and Human Services Committee’s session-long work reforming the medical marijuana program.

The bipartisan omnibus reform bill:

  • removes the qualifying condition list so that any Mainer can use medical marijuana so long as their doctor thinks it would be helpful for them;
  • eliminates the requirement that a patient must designate a caregiver or dispensary as their sole provider, allowing for more patient choice;
  • adds two more dispensaries to the existing eight dispensaries and removes the cap on the dispensaries after January 1, 2021;
  • allows for caregivers to open storefronts, if the town approves; and
  • much more…you can read a summary of the changes here.

These reforms are a win for the patients and the industry, and a hearty “Congratulations!” is in order for everyone that worked hard to make this happen.

Read more



Medical Marijuana, Tax and Regulate

New Jersey announces it’s doubling the number of medical marijuana businesses

July 16th, 2018 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

Good news! Today, the New Jersey Department of Health announced that it will begin accepting applications for six additional businesses that can grow, process, and sell medical cannabis in the state. The winning businesses are supposed to be announced on November 1. Unfortunately, there is no provision yet for equity applicants, although applicants may be awarded up to 50 (out of 1,000) points for diversity.

With the tiny number of existing businesses, patients have experienced supply shortages and high prices due to a lack of competition. Today’s expansion should help begin to address these problems, although more will need to be done. Separating the licenses for growing, processing, and selling cannabis will help make many more types of products available to patients, and the health department plans to consider additional applications for these licenses beginning in the fall.

In other news, while the June 30 budget deadline came and went without legislative action on any of the pending marijuana bills, Senate President Steve Sweeny has said he believes there could be a vote on legalizing and regulating this summer.

If you are a New Jersey resident, click here to ask for your lawmakers’ support.

Read more



Medical Marijuana

Oklahoma Board of Health restricts voters’ marijuana law

July 11th, 2018 3 Comments Kate Zawidzki

On June 26, 57% of Oklahoma voters approved SQ 788 — a broad medical marijuana initiative that required swift implementation.

The Department of Health had been working for three months on regulations in case the initiative passed and swiftly released draft emergency regulations. MPP and many other advocates and patients submitted comments raising concerns, flagging several regulations that included onerous restrictions inconsistent with SQ 788.

Unfortunately, yesterday the Board of Health met to consider those regulations and approved almost all of the regulations we expressed concern about. They also added new restrictions — such as prohibiting the sale of smokeable cannabis.

The rules:

• Prohibit cannabis from being sold with more than 12% THC in infused products and prohibit plants from exceeding 20% THC.
• Prohibit dispensaries from selling smokeable, flower cannabis, and edible cannabis.
• Require each dispensary to have a pharmacist on staff.
• Require physicians to register before making recommendations, complete medical cannabis-specific training, and screen patients for substance abuse, mental health issues, and whether the patient presents a risk for diversion.
• Require physicians to perform a pregnancy test on “females of childbearing years” before recommending cannabis.

These restrictions will deprive some patients of the medicine that works best for them, while driving up costs and driving down doctor participation.

Advocates are considering next steps, including possible litigation. Stay tuned for updates. Also, we want to express our hearty congratulations to everyone who worked so hard to pass SQ 788!

Read more



Medical Marijuana

Minnesota patients with autism and sleep apnea now qualify for medical cannabis

July 10th, 2018 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

Last November, the Minnesota Department of Health approved adding autism spectrum disorders and obstructive sleep apnea as qualifying conditions for the state’s medical cannabis program. Under state law, the additions take effect the following summer.

Starting on July 1, 2018, patients with a doctor’s certification and either of those conditions could begin registering for the program. They can start accessing medical cannabis no sooner than August 1. Our allies at Sensible Minnesota offer one-on-one assistance to patients who need help navigating the process. Learn more here.

Congratulations to Sensible Minnesota and to all the advocates and health professionals who were involved in petitioning to expand the program!

Sensible Minnesota is now working on petitions to expand the program to include opioid use disorder, hepatitis C, Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury, and insomnia.

If you are a Minnesota medical professional who might be willing to add your voice to the petition, contact Sensible Minnesota at 952-529-4420 or by email.

Read more



Medical Marijuana

Hawaii governor considering medical cannabis/opioid bill

July 6th, 2018 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

Earlier this year, the Hawaii Legislature overwhelmingly approved SB 2407, which would allow opioid and substance use disorders, and their symptoms, to be treated with medical cannabis if a physician recommends it. But last week, Gov. David Ige announced he intends to veto this compassionate bill.

Medical cannabis can ease the devastating symptoms of opiate withdrawal and make it easier for individuals to stay on treatment regimens. For some, this is an issue of life or death.

The governor has until July 10 to act on the bill. If you are a resident of Hawaii, please call Gov. Ige at 808-586-0034 or send him an email to urge him to reconsider. We’ve provided some talking points and a draft email message to make the process easy.

Read more



Medical Marijuana

Georgia PTSD and intractable pain patients may now enroll in low-THC oil program

July 3rd, 2018 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

Georgians suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and those with intractable pain may begin signing up for the state’s low-THC oil program. A bill passed earlier this year, House Bill 65, went into effect on July 1, adding these two serious conditions.

Intractable pain is devastating and is often defined as constant and excruciating. Those who experience it sometimes turn to reliance on opioid medications. While low-THC oil may not replace opioids for these patients, many have found medical cannabis products can allow them to use fewer opioids by reducing pain levels, helping patients maintain appetite and serving as a sleep aid. It can be an important new tool in a treatment program.

Many who suffer from PTSD can also find relief through use of medical cannabis products. This debilitating disease can affect all aspects of a person’s life, and like intractable pain, pharmaceutical drugs used to treat the condition can themselves cause harm. Veterans and those experiencing PTSD deserve a safer alternative.

The state’s program has grown in recent years, but Georgia’s limited, low-THC approach remains flawed. While patients have some protections, there is no regulatory system behind production or sale, leaving access to cannabis in the shadows. We hope Georgia can improve its program when lawmakers reconvene in 2019.

While short of a complete solution, these changes are welcome.

Read more



Medical Marijuana

Compassion wins: Oklahoma legalizes medical marijuana!

June 27th, 2018 2 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Mark another victory down for 2018. Oklahoma just became the 30th state to approve medical marijuana, as voters approved SQ 788 57% to 43%!

Despite an advertising blitz from opponents in the final days before the election, the Yes on 788 team emerged victorious. Thanks to the campaign’s efforts — and the voters of Oklahoma — tens of thousands of patients will soon be able to safely access medical marijuana with approval from their doctor.

The passage of State Question 788 highlights the strength and diversity of public support for laws allowing the medical use of marijuana. It is noteworthy that this measure passed in such a red state during a primary election, when voter turnout tends to be older and more conservative than during a general election.

Oklahoma lawmakers now plan to pass legislation to implement State Question 788. Read a summary of SQ 788 here.

The win in Oklahoma shows that our movement for sensible and compassionate marijuana policies is growing stronger and stronger. Later this year, voters in Utah and Michigan will also have an opportunity to approve legalization initiatives. Please consider supporting these important efforts:

>> Donate to the Utah medical marijuana campaign.

>> Donate to the Michigan legalization campaign.

Read more



Medical Marijuana, Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

NY Health Dept. will expand medical program; looks favorably toward adult use

June 20th, 2018 1 Comment Kate Zawidzki

The Health Commissioner of New York, Howard Zucker, recently announced that a long-awaited study by the Cuomo administration will recommend the legalization and regulation of marijuana for adult use. The study is believed to be at least partly in response to gubernatorial primary candidate Cynthia Nixon’s strong support of marijuana legalization.

Mr. Zucker also announced that the Health Department will issue regulations to allow patients who have been prescribed opioids to qualify for the state’s medical marijuana program. Not all patients can qualify under the existing chronic pain provision, since opioids may also be prescribed for severe but short-term pain, such as after surgery. The New York Senate also passed a bill to do the same, as well as to allow patients with opioid use disorder to qualify.

While the state’s legislative session is ending soon, New York is moving closer to ending marijuana prohibition!

In other news, New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio, under increasing pressure to address the racial disparity in low-level marijuana arrests, announced a new policy designed to reduce arrests and give more tickets instead. Unfortunately, the policy, which will take effect September 1, has so many exceptions its impact may be limited.

Read more



Medical Marijuana

California: Donated medical cannabis shouldn’t be taxed

June 20th, 2018 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

A bill that could restore the ability to provide free, untaxed cannabis to low- or no-income patients is now being considered in the California State Assembly. SB 829 would allow taxes to be waived for medical cannabis that is donated, free of charge, for medical cannabis patients. This is a welcome improvement for patients with limited means.

It is no surprise that seriously ill patients can be faced with little or no income. Combine that with the fact that medical insurance providers don’t cover medical cannabis, and it can create a serious financial burden on medical marijuana patients. Today in California, even cannabis that is donated free of charge must be taxed an excise tax. This is unfair to those in need. SB 829 aims to provide relief. For a look at the latest bill text, click here.

Under the bill, both cultivators and retail dispensaries would be excused from the tax burden on cannabis that is donated to those who qualify. It’s a simple change but an important one.

If you are a California resident and agree patients need additional relief, please take a moment to ask your Assemblymembers to vote yes on SB 829 when it is before them for a vote. It’s a common-sense step for some of California’s most vulnerable residents.

Read more



Medical Marijuana

Help Oklahoma become the next state to legalize medical marijuana

June 18th, 2018 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

Later in June, Oklahomans will head to the polls and decide whether patients with serious health conditions should be allowed to safely access medical marijuana. If you know anyone living in Oklahoma who supports sensible marijuana policies, make sure they go vote on June 26.

The grassroots group backing the initiative, Yes on 788, is doing an excellent job with a limited budget, and polls look encouraging. Roughly 60% of Oklahomans say they favor the initiative. But opponents are misleading voters about what the initiative would do, and this could be a close one.

If you’re able to make a contribution to help Oklahoma patients access medical marijuana, please do so.

Tens of thousands of patients in Oklahoma would see their lives and well-being improve if voters pass State Question 788. No family should have to watch a loved one suffer from a debilitating medical condition while a safe and effective treatment is available.

There’s a lot at stake. Let’s cheer on Oklahoma and support their effort to provide compassion and relief to patients who need it.

Read more