Medical Marijuana

Congress Passes Spending Bill Continuing Protections for State Medical Marijuana Programs

May 4th, 2017 3 Comments Marijuana Policy Project

The Justice Department will continue to be prohibited from interfering in state medical marijuana laws under the federal spending bill passed Thursday in the Senate. The bill has already passed the House, and President Trump has said he will sign it.

The legislation includes a provision that is intended to prevent the department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, from using funds to arrest or prosecute patients, caregivers, and businesses that are acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

The provision stems from an amendment originally sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and former Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), which was first approved by the House in May 2014. It was approved again by a larger margin in June 2015, then included in the continuing appropriations packages that have funded the federal government since October 2016.

Unfortunately, the spending package approved Thursday also includes a provision that prevents the District of Columbia from regulating the cultivation and distribution of marijuana for adult use. It was originally introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland) and approved in 2015, after District voters approved a ballot initiative to make possession and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older.

MPP’s Robert Capecchi released the following statement:

“Congress appears to be growing increasingly comfortable with states adopting their own marijuana policies,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Unfortunately, spending prohibitions like these expire at the end of the fiscal year, so there is still a need for a long-term solution.

“The time is right for Congress to adopt permanent legislation that protects individuals from federal enforcement if they are in compliance with state laws,” Capecchi said. “It is difficult to understand what they’re waiting for. The vast majority of U.S. voters oppose the federal government interfering in state marijuana laws, and there is now near-universal support for legalizing medical marijuana.”

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Vermont House Approves Bill to Legalize Possession, Home Cultivation

May 4th, 2017 No Comments Marijuana Policy Project

Late Tuesday, the Vermont House of Representatives made history by voting to legalize marijuana. H. 170, which would eliminate penalties for adults’ possession of one ounce or less of marijuana and limited home cultivation passed the House in a 74-68 vote. If the bipartisan measure is approved at a third reading, which is expected this week, it will advance to the Senate.

H. 170, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chair Maxine Grad (D-Moretown), Vice Chair Charles Conquest (D-Wells River), and ranking Republican Rep. Tom Burditt (R-West Rutland), would eliminate Vermont’s civil penalty for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana, and it would eliminate penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants. Penalties for possession of more than one ounce of marijuana would also be reduced.

The Senate has already agreed with the House that personal possession and cultivation should be legal for adults. On April 21, the Senate voted 21-9 to amend a House-passed bill (H. 167) to include language of a comprehensive legalization and regulation bill. That bill, which passed the Senate, mirrors the personal possession and cultivation provisions of H.170. The original House version would not take effect until January 2019, whereas the Senate-amended bill would take effect on July 1, 2017.

MPP released the following statement in a press release:

“We applaud the House for approving this commonsense legislation and hope their colleagues in the Senate will agree that it’s time to move forward with this important reform,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Most Vermonters support this bill, in part because they know that marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and it’s time to start treating it that way.”

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New Hampshire One Step Closer to Decriminalizing Possession

May 2nd, 2017 1 Comment Marijuana Policy Project

For the first time in its history, the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to approve a marijuana decriminalization bill. HB 640 was amended and passed by the committee in a 3-2 vote today. A vote by the full Senate is expected on Thursday, May 11. For a summary of the bill, as amended, click here.

The House overwhelmingly approved HB 640 in February in a 318-36 vote, and it has approved similar bills eight times since 2008. The Senate Judiciary Committee vote marks the first time such a bill has been approved by a Senate committee. Gov. Chris Sununu has consistently said he supports decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and is expected to sign the bill if it is approved by the full Senate.

MPP released the following statement from New England Policy Director Matt Simon in a press release:

“This is a big step toward a more sensible marijuana policy in New Hampshire,” said Matt Simon, the Manchester-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It will allow police and the courts to spend their time addressing serious crimes instead of wasting it on pointless arrests and criminal prosecutions for marijuana possession.”

“The current penalties for marijuana possession in New Hampshire are causing more harm to consumers and the community than marijuana itself,” Simon said. “Every other state in New England has already stopped criminalizing people for simple marijuana possession. Granite Staters are ready to do the same.”  

HB 640, which was originally introduced in the House by Rep. Renny Cushing and a bipartisan group of co-sponsors, would remove the threat of arrest and jail time for simple marijuana possession. As amended by the Senate, the penalty for possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana would be reduced from a criminal misdemeanor, which is currently punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000, to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine for a first or second offense and a $300 fine for a third offense within three years of the first offense. A fourth offense within three years of the first offense could be charged as a class B misdemeanor without arrest or the possibility of jail time.

In other great news, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted unanimously to approve HB 160, which would make post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) a qualifying condition for the medical cannabis program and make other positive changes to the law.

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Medical Marijuana

Indiana Governor Approves Low-THC Medical Bill

May 2nd, 2017 1 Comment Maggie Ellinger-Locke

Just days after the bill was sent to his desk, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law HB 1148, a bill establishing a low-THC program for patients suffering from severe seizure disorders. The program will be run through the Department of Health and will allow patients access to cannabis oils containing less than 0.3% THC with their neurologists’ certification. The law takes effect on July 1, 2017, and you can check out our full summary of the program here.

While this program will only benefit a tiny fraction of patients in the state who could benefit from medical cannabis, MPP applauds this important policy step forward. Next session, we hope lawmakers will be persuaded to establish a comprehensive medical marijuana program, something that 73% of Hoosiers support.

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Medical Marijuana

Vermont Medical Marijuana Improvements Moving Forward

May 2nd, 2017 1 Comment Matt Simon

The Vermont Legislature continues to make incremental progress on marijuana policy reform. The House Human Services Committee voted 10-0 to pass S. 16, a Senate-approved bill that would substantially improve the state’s medical cannabis program. As amended by the committee, S. 16 would add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Crohn’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease as qualifying conditions, and it would allow patients to grow their own plants without forfeiting their ability to purchase from dispensaries. It would also allow dispensaries to open additional locations in order to better serve patients.

If you are a Vermont resident, please call the House Speaker’s office today and urge House leaders to schedule a vote on the marijuana legalization bill. Adjournment is expected May 6, so please also email and call your own representatives today, and urge them to take action.

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Medical Marijuana

New York House Approves PTSD Bill

May 2nd, 2017 No Comments Kate Bell

New York is one of the only states that does not list post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition for its medical marijuana program. The state got one step closer to remedying that today, when the Assembly voted overwhelmingly (101-6) to approve A 7006. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Twenty-four of the 29 states with medical marijuana programs allow patients with PTSD to qualify. Two of those that do not (Colorado and Alaska) allow all adults 21 and up to legally purchase and use marijuana, and two (Vermont and Colorado) have already had a bill to add PTSD pass in both chambers of the state’s legislature. PTSD can have a devastating impact on patients’ quality of life, and while it can be caused by any traumatic event, it’s particularly common among veterans who have served our country.

If you are a New York resident, please contact your lawmakers and urge them to support this legislation.

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Medical Marijuana

Colorado PTSD Legislation Awaiting Governor’s Signature

May 2nd, 2017 2 Comments Chris Lindsey

The Colorado Legislature took an important step toward improving the state’s medical marijuana program last week by passing SB17-017, which would add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition. Twenty-four out of 29 states with medical marijuana programs allow patients with PTSD to qualify, but Colorado still does not.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has not yet indicated if he’s supportive. If you are a Colorado resident, please call him now at (303) 866-2471, and politely ask him to make this important treatment option available to patients! To make it easy, we have a sample script available here.

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 has led 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?

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Medical Marijuana

New York Could Add PTSD to Qualifying Conditions

May 2nd, 2017 1 Comment Kate Bell

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?

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Medical Marijuana

Iowa CBD Program Improvement Bill Awaiting Approval From Governor

May 1st, 2017 2 Comments Maggie Ellinger-Locke

Last week, the Iowa Legislature approved HF 524, extending and expanding the state’s existing cannabidiol program. Now, all the bill needs is a signature from the governor to become law.

Although the Senate approved a full medical marijuana bill that allowed as much THC as patients might need, the House has lagged behind. HF 524 includes a 3% cap on THC. We are disappointed at the limits of the final bill, but it is still an important step forward.

If passed, patients suffering from illnesses such as Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or terminal illness would be able to enroll in a program with their doctor’s authorization. Patients must be permanent residents of Iowa and would apply for their ID cards through the Department of Transportation. Unlike Iowa’s existing CBD program, manufacturers would be licensed to produce the oil, and dispensaries would be established where patients could make actual purchases, thus allowing in-state access to this life-changing medication.

If you are an Iowa resident, please ask Gov. Terry Branstad to sign the measure into law without delay.

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Medical Marijuana

Time Runs Out on Compromise to Fix Maryland Medical Cannabis Program

April 21st, 2017 1 Comment Kate Bell

After long and difficult negotiations and consultation with advocates, industry stakeholders, and the Attorney General, legislators agreed on a compromise bill, HB 1443, to address the lack of diversity in the Maryland medical cannabis industry without delaying the program. Unfortunately, the clock ran out on the last night of session and the final vote occurred at 12:02 a.m. — just after the end of session.

This is really unfortunate for two reasons. First, because two lawsuits that would have been dismissed if the bill had passed will continue; they could derail the entire program. Second, even though African-Americans have borne the brunt of marijuana prohibition, being almost three times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession, no African-American-owned companies received pre-approval to grow or process cannabis. This unfairness is why the legislative Black Caucus championed the bill.

Under Maryland law, the Governor is required to call a special session if a majority of legislators in both chambers of the General Assembly petition him to do so. It appears the speaker of the House of Delegates, Mike Busch, is the primary obstacle to this happening. If you are a Maryland resident, please call the speaker’s office and ask him to do the right thing. A good bill with overwhelming support should not fail just because the clock ran out before the final shot hit the basket.

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