Medical Marijuana

New York Legislature Pass Bill to Add PTSD to Medical Marijuana Program

June 21st, 2017 3 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

On Tuesday, the New York Senate took an important step toward improving the state’s medical marijuana program by passing S 5629, which would add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition. The Assembly had already overwhelmingly passed an identical bill, A 7006. The bills now head to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk.

MPP’s Kate Bell said the following in a press release:

“State lawmakers are standing up for thousands of New Yorkers who are suffering from PTSD and might benefit from medical marijuana,” said Kate Bell, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “We hope Gov. Cuomo will do the same and sign this important legislation. With a single swipe of his pen, he can help countless people find relief.”

Gov. Cuomo has not yet indicated if he’s supportive. If you are a New York resident, please call him now at (518) 474-8390, and politely ask him to make this important treatment option available to patients! To make it easy, we have a sample script available here. You can also click here to send an email in support.

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 suffer from PTSD, which is why the State Council of Veterans’ Organizations has come out in support of this bill. Shouldn’t those who have served our country and others who have survived trauma have access to any treatment that might help ease their suffering?

Please ask Gov. Cuomo to allow New York to join the other 26 states — of the 29 states with medical marijuana programs — that include PTSD as a qualifying condition by signing this legislation.

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Prohibition

PNC Bank Closing MPP’s Accounts

June 21st, 2017 6 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

PNC Bank notified MPP that it would be closing our accounts on July 7. The bank cited federal prohibition and the fact that some of our donors are involved in legal, regulated marijuana businesses as the reason for closing the accounts.

CNN Money reports:

The organization does not deal directly with the sale or distribution of marijuana, Tvert said. But the 22-year-old lobby group does receive money from state-legal marijuana businesses that pay taxes.

Marijuana remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government, though medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and recreational pot is legal in eight states and the District of Columbia. Banks are supposed to adhere to federal law, so many of them shun state-legal marijuana businesses, forcing some of those businesses to deal in cash.

[MPP’s Mason] Tvert said he wonders why a bank would have a problem dealing with an organization that receives money from marijuana businesses when those businesses pay taxes.

“We receive contributions from state regulated marijuana businesses … that are paying taxes,” he said. “Yet we don’t see anyone shutting down the federal government’s bank account or state or local governments’ bank accounts. We have moved so far toward legitimizing this industry yet we are still seeing these kinds of ridiculous situations that need to be addressed.”

MPP has secured alternative banking options and will be moving forward with our efforts to end marijuana prohibition.

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Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Health Department Announces First Round of Permits

June 20th, 2017 2 Comments Becky Dansky

At a press conference today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced the recipients of the first round of medical marijuana business permits. A total of 12 cultivation and processing permits were awarded, two in each of six designated regions.

The department received approximately 177 applications for this type of permit. The announcement of up to 27 dispensary permit recipients will be made before the end of June.

Act 16, the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act, allows for up to 25 grower/ processor permits and up to 50 dispensary permits. The department is expected to issue additional permits after evaluating where additional medical cannabis access is necessary. If program implementation maintains its current pace, dispensaries should be able to begin serving patients in less than year. The department recently released regulations for doctors, but has yet to release regulations for patients wishing to participate in the program. The registry for doctors will be available in July.

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Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Health Secretary Rejects Medical Cannabis Board Recommendations

June 19th, 2017 1 Comment Becky Dansky

Earlier this year, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez vetoed H.B. 527, which would have strengthened and expanded the state’s medical cannabis program. Among other changes, the bill would have created legal protections for agency staff and employees of labs, product manufacturers, and others; added protections for patients visiting from other medical cannabis states; and expanded qualifying medical conditions.

Patients and their families then called on Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher to adopt similar provisions, which the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board had already recommended. Despite the support of the board and the Legislature, Secretary Gallagher announced that she is rejecting most of the recommended changes, while reserving judgment on some issues.

Although this development is deeply disappointing, the fight isn’t over. Marijuana policy reform is always a difficult battle, but across the country, medical programs continue to expand while public support grows stronger.

Thanks to the hard work of advocates like our colleagues at the Drug Policy Alliance and other committed activists, an enormous amount of progress has already been made in New Mexico — which was the first state to explicitly allow medical marijuana for PTSD. With continued determination, more improvements will surely be on the horizon.

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Prohibition

Nevada Governor Signs Marijuana Bills as Adult-Use Sales Cleared for Early Start

June 16th, 2017 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Nevada is moving toward well-regulated and accessible medical and recreation marijuana programs – Governor Sandoval signed marijuana-related bills into law and the state has approved early-start recreational sales!

Of the bills, the first, SB344, requires marijuana edibles be in unattractive, childproof packaging; the second, AB422, lowers medical marijuana patient fees; and the third, SB487, imposes a 10% tax on recreational marijuana sales – adding the revenue to the state’s rainy day fund and regulating limited access of the fund until 2019.

Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed AB259, a bill that would have expunged criminal records of those convicted of possessing one ounce or less of marijuana or violating any provision of law involving marijuana that is now legal.

The approved bills will join four bills signed into law this session providing a framework for Nevada’s new recreational marijuana industry, while preserving the state’s medical marijuana program.

Additionally, Nevada’s adult-use marijuana industry could begin adult-use sales by July 1. The Department of Taxation approved temporary regulations and applications have already been accepted. However, adult-use sales could be delayed by a legal challenge from alcohol distributors. MPP is monitoring closely and will be working to avoid any delay.

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition

Federal Medical Marijuana Protection Bill Introduced in Senate

June 15th, 2017 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Corey Booker (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) reintroduced a bill Thursday that would end the federal prohibition of medical marijuana. Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) also signed on to the legislation as original co-sponsors.

The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (or CARERS) Act of 2017 would allow individuals and entities to possess, produce, and distribute medical marijuana if they are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. It would also open up avenues to medical marijuana research and allow physicians employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to veterans in states where it is legal. The bill also proposes excluding cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana, from the federal government’s definition of “marijuana.”

This is the second time the CARERS Act has been introduced. It was first introduced on March 10, 2015, during the 114th Congress.

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Tax and Regulate

Massachusetts Lawmakers Attempting to Repeal and Replace Legalization Law

June 14th, 2017 2 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

In Massachusetts, the Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy just approved a “repeal and replace” bill that bears very little resemblance to the legalization law passed by 1.8 million voters in November.

The bill would undermine efforts to replace the unregulated market with a system of licensed businesses. It would take away the right of voters to decide on local marijuana policy, and it could impose a tax rate on marijuana that exceeds 50%. It authorizes the sharing of information with the FBI on cannabis commerce, including employees and medical patients. It also makes the Cannabis Control Commission — the entity that will regulate marijuana businesses — less unaccountable.

If you are a Massachusetts resident, please call your state representative and tell them not to vote for this bill when it is presented for a vote in the House on Thursday. We must not allow politicians to repeal and replace the will of the people, especially when their proposed changes are so flawed and misguided.

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Tax and Regulate

Regulate Rhode Island Will Not Participate in Flawed Legalization Study Commission

June 14th, 2017 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Later today, the Rhode Island House is scheduled to vote on a flawed piece of legislation that would establish a 22-person “study commission” on marijuana legalization. According to the bill, a handful of the designated members in the study commission would be representatives of organizations that are part of our Regulate Rhode Island coalition.

Today, the coalition announced that we would not participate as members of this flawed study commission if it is established.

We have talked with legislators throughout the session, and they are interested in practical questions about how to establish a well-regulated marijuana market. We do not believe the proposed study commission can offer recommendations for how to legalize and regulate marijuana if the commission does not acknowledge that marijuana should be legalized and regulated at the outset.

Regulate Rhode Island Director Jared Moffat released the following statement in a press release:

“The proposed study commission is not a good faith effort to analyze the issue, it is a flawed delay tactic. It would engage in the same legalization debate that has already taken place during the legislative process. It is not intended to find a solution to Rhode Island’s marijuana prohibition problem; it is intended to avoid one. The only people who benefit from delaying legalization — which is what this study commission would do — are the illegal dealers who are currently profiting from selling marijuana.

“Regulate Rhode Island’s members will not participate in the study commission because we are not interested in helping lawmakers once again avoid a vote on legalization. Sen. Miller and Rep. Slater have proposed a very reasonable compromise that deserves an up-or-down vote in the House and Senate this year. Rhode Islanders deserve to know where their elected officials stand on this issue. We call on House Speaker Mattiello and Senate President Ruggerio to stop stalling and allow our legislators to vote on legalization.”

We remain committed to our demand that the General Assembly hold a vote on a real legalization bill this year. If you are a Rhode Island resident, please call your legislators, and tell them to vote against the flawed study commission legislation and demand a vote on our simple and reasonable compromise proposal.

Our compromise would make up to an ounce of marijuana legal for adults ages 21 and older starting July 2018, when stores would open in Massachusetts. It would also create a small advisory board to study how Rhode Island could regulate and tax marijuana in the future.

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General

MPP’s Virginia Primary Voter Guide

June 12th, 2017 No Comments Maggie Ellinger-Locke

On Tuesday, Virginians across the state will head to the polls to cast their primary ballot for candidates for House delegates and governor. MPP looked at where gubernatorial candidates stand on three critical marijuana policy questions and assigned each candidate a letter grade. You can check out our voter guide here.

After tomorrow’s primary, November’s ballot will be finalized where — in addition to the governor’s race — all of Virginia’s 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up for election. If you are a Virginia resident, please consider asking the candidates from your district where they stand on these issues and then let us know if you get any responses. We will be putting together a general election voter guide later this year.

If you do not know where your polling place is located, you can find out here.

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Medical Marijuana

Vermont Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill

June 9th, 2017 No Comments Matt Simon

On Thursday, Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed S. 16, a bill that will significantly improve patients’ access to Vermont’s medical marijuana program. The bill adds post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Parkinson’s disease, and Crohn’s disease to the list of qualifying conditions. It also authorizes an additional dispensary (bringing the statewide total to five), and it allows existing dispensaries to open one additional location each. When the patient registry reaches 7,000, an additional dispensary will be authorized.

You can read a complete summary of the bill here.

In other news, the governor’s office, legislative leaders, and advocates are making progress on a marijuana legalization compromise bill that could pass this summer during the veto session that is scheduled to begin on June 21.

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