West Virginia Becomes the 29th Medical Marijuana State


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Today, West Virginia officially became the 29th state to pass medical marijuana legislation!

Gov. Jim Justice signed the law today after the bipartisan bill passed both the Senate and House earlier this month.

While the law isn’t perfect, it’s a great start toward providing safe and legal access to medical marijuana for qualifying patients. A summary is available here.

This achievement didn’t happen overnight. In fact, MPP, along with many other advocates, has been working tirelessly to get a medical marijuana bill passed for years.

MPP released the following in a press release:

“This legislation is going to benefit countless West Virginia patients and families for years to come,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “Medical marijuana can be effective in treating a variety of debilitating conditions and symptoms. It is a proven pain reliever, and it is far less toxic and less addictive than a lot of prescription drugs. Providing patients with a safer alternative to opioids could turn out to be a godsend for this state.”

Six states have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws in the past 12 months. Three of those laws, including West Virginia’s, passed through Republican-controlled legislatures. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Ohio approved them last April and June, respectively. The other three were approved by voters in November in states won by Donald Trump — Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota.

“Intensifying public support and a growing body of evidence are driving the rapid growth in the number of states adopting medical marijuana laws,” Simon said. “Lawmakers are also learning about marijuana’s medical benefits from friends, family members, and constituents who have experienced them firsthand in other states. More than nine out of 10 American voters think marijuana should be legal for medical purposes. In light of this near universal support, it is shocking that some legislatures still have not adopted effective medical marijuana laws.”

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Proposed Florida Medical Marijuana Rules Spell Disaster for Patients


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Tuesday morning, the Florida Health Department released draft rules that are supposed to implement the medical marijuana law approved by 71% of Florida voters. It doesn’t appear regulators actually read Amendment 2, however. Instead, they tried to simply slightly expand the existing, and ineffective, low-THC program.

These rules would be a disaster for patients:

  • They require doctors to “order” specific quantities of cannabis, which is too much like an unlawful prescription and puts them at risk under federal law. If doctors don’t participate, patients won’t be able to enroll.
  • They give the Health Department — not the patient’s doctor — the ability to determine whether the patient’s condition is “substantially similar” to those listed in the amendment.
  • They continue the oligopoly of only seven businesses for an expected patient population of over 162,000 — far fewer businesses per patient than any other state! This will drive up prices and result in less variety of strains and products for different patients’ needs.
  • Even if additional businesses were eventually allowed, they would be subject to unfair and onerous requirements.

Thankfully, these rules are not final and the public has an opportunity to comment. There will be a series of public meetings around the state, and members of the public can provide comments on the Department of Health website.

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Medical Marijuana Initiatives Sweep Election Night


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All four of the medical marijuana initiatives being considered by states on Election Night were approved by voters, adding to the considerable momentum of marijuana policy reform sweeping the country. Voters in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota approved initiatives for new medical marijuana programs, and Montana voted to significantly expand access and improve its existing program.

medicalAs of now, there are effective medical marijuana laws on the books in 28 states and the District of Columbia, covering 198 million Americans (or roughly 62% of the population). Patients in states without legal, safe, and reliable access to medical marijuana should continue to put pressure on their elected representatives to pass sensible reforms at the state and federal level. Together, we can make sure the seriously ill aren’t treated like criminals for much longer.

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Election Day Voter Guides


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Today is the day! This is the biggest election in marijuana policy reform history, but even if you can’t vote on a legalization or medical marijuana ballot initiative today, you could play an important part to make future progress possible in your state.logo-mpp-286-mpp-and-we-change-laws

Before you vote, please check out MPP’s voter guides if you live in the following places:

Delaware

District of Columbia

Illinois

Nebraska

New Hampshire

Pennsylvania

South Carolina

Vermont

And don’t forget to tell your friends in Arizona, Arkansas, California, FloridaMaine, Massachusetts, MontanaNevada, and North Dakota to vote YES on their respective marijuana initiatives!

 

 

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Florida Medical Marijuana Initiative Endorsed by National and State Epilepsy Foundations


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United for Care, the Florida group campaigning to pass an effective medical marijuana ballot initiate on election day, recently announced endorsements from state and national epilepsy organizations.ef

Florida Politics reports:

The Florida Epilepsy Foundation has endorsed proposed Amendment 2, the medical marijuana initiative on Florida’s Nov. 8 ballot.

“Important medical decisions, such as treatments and medications, should be made by licensed physicians who know their patients best. That’s why the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, along with the national Epilepsy Foundation, supports Amendment 2,” Karen Basha Egozi, chief executive officer of the organization, said Tuesday in a written statement.

“Florida’s epilepsy patients should have available whatever treatment options their doctors recommend, including medical marijuana,” she said.

The proposal would allow cannabis use by people “with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician.”

It provides legal protections for caregivers helping them administer the drug, subject to oversight by the state Department of Health.

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Florida Medical Marijuana Initiative Appears Likely to Pass


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A Saint Leo University poll released in late September indicated public support for an amendment that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in Florida. Amendment 2 will allow Florida doctors to legally recommend medical marijuana to their patients with debilitating illnesses.hb-yes_on_2

Passage of Amendment 2 also authorizes the Department of Health to issue identification cards to patients and caregivers who qualify, as well as register and regulate facilities to produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes.

Although a Florida amendment to legalize the use of medical marijuana in 2014 was unsuccessful, advocates are confident that voter support is much stronger this year. The favorability of the amendment has increased from 65%  in June to 68% in September. The amendment is required to get 60%  of the vote for it to pass into law. In 2014, it received 58%.

“It appears as though medical marijuana supporters will get the victory they were denied by voters in 2014.” Frank Orlando, director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute, said. “The higher the turnout among young voters, the better the chance that this amendment passes.”

Another poll released by the Florida Chamber of Commerce indicates that Amendment 2 is receiving 73% favorable support. The one take-away that voters supporting Amendment 2 have to consider is the importance of showing up to vote at the polls when it counts the most, on Election Day.

The Yes on 2 campaign working hard to maintain support and is currently working to raise money to counter an expansive campaign of misinformation by the much more well-funded opposition.

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Top Legislative Victories of 2016


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Now that most state legislative sessions are over for the year, MPP’s Rob Kampia has published a list of the biggest victories in what is already the biggest year on record for marijuana policy reformers!Rating_Badge_JO

On July 29, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed a bill removing the threat of arrest for small amounts of marijuana, capping a record year of legislative and administrative marijuana policy reforms throughout the country.

Two states, Pennsylvania and Ohio, enacted effective medical marijuana laws via their legislatures, making them the 24th and 25th states to do so, respectively. As a result, more than half of the U.S. population now lives in states that have opted to legalize medical marijuana.

In addition to Illinois, a number of other states enacted laws to reduce marijuana possession penalties. Kansas lowered the maximum jail sentence for first-time possession and reduced second offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Louisiana and Maryland removed criminal penalties for possession of paraphernalia, with the Maryland Legislature overriding Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto. Oklahoma cut the penalties for second marijuana possession offenses in half, and Tennessee reduced a third possession offense from a felony to a misdemeanor, making the maximum penalty less than a year in jail. At the local level, New Orleans and a number of Florida counties passed ordinances that give police the option to issue summons or citations instead of arresting people for low-level possession.

You can read the full article in the Huffington Post.

 

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First Dispensaries to Open in Florida, but Most Patients Still Left Behind


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The first dispensary in Florida to offer low-THC medical marijuana products is expected to open in Tallahassee on Tuesday. Unfortunately, there are still huge flaws in Florida’s law. Dispensaries may be opening up, but for most patients, the doors are still shut.YesOn2Florida

First, only low-THC marijuana will be available, and only patients with cancer, seizures, or severe and persistent muscle spasms will qualify, leaving many patients behind. Although cannabis with more THC will eventually be available, it will only be for terminally ill patients.

Second, doctors are required to “order” a specific amount of cannabis, which is perilously close to prescribing it. This puts doctors at risk of violating federal law, and we expect that it will be very difficult for patients to find doctors willing to take this risk, which is why MPP does not classify Florida as a true medical marijuana state.

The best way to fix these problems is to support United for Care’s efforts to pass Amendment 2, which would create an effective medical program for Florida.

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Majority of Americans Continue to Support Making Marijuana Legal in the U.S.


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According to a recent Gallup Poll, 51% of Americans favor making the use of marijuana legal — similar to the 50% who supported it in 2011 and 2012 — but down from 58% support last year.

The October 12-15 Gallup poll was conducted in the run-up to the midterm elections, in which various marijuana policy reform ballot measures were before voters in Alaska, Oregon, Washington D.C., and Florida, as well as in many cities in Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, and elsewhere.

Last year was the first time that Gallup found an overwhelming majority in favor of making marijuana legal, at a solid 58%. This year, however, support is shown to be at 51%, which is still a majority, though the percentage is closer to where it was in 2011 and 2012.

According to the communications director at the Marijuana Policy Project, Mason Tvert:

While most observers would agree there was solid majority support in 2013, many thought 58% was questionably high. Rarely, if ever, do you see public opinion on a controversial social issue jump as much as seven points in the course of one year. It will be interesting to see if the same opponents who declared such a large increase was impossible last year will have the same analysis of such a large decrease this year.  

Things are moving in one direction when it comes to the tangible products of public opinion. I would take passage of laws in two states and our nation’s capital over some jumpy poll results any day. If Gallup finds 49% support in 2016 after five more states vote to end marijuana prohibition, I could live with that. 

The bottom line is that public support for making the use of marijuana legal has clearly increased and continues to increase as more Americans recognize that it makes no sense to punish responsible adults for using a substance that is safer than alcohol. Four states, the nation’s capital, and two East Coast cities now legally allow the use of marijuana. It is clear that momentum is growing across the nation for marijuana policy reform.

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Marijuana is Now Legal in Alaska, Oregon, South Portland, Maine, and the Nation’s Capital


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Voters in two states, the fourth largest city in Maine, and the nation’s capital approved ballot measures to end marijuana prohibition and implement more sensible marijuana policies, capping off a historic election year for marijuana policy reform.

Alaska and Oregon are now the third and fourth states to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol, following Colorado and Washington. As of early this morning, Oregon’s Measure 91 led 54-46 with 75% of the votes counted. Alaska’s Ballot Measure 2 led 52-48 with 97% of the state’s precincts reporting.

Voters in South Portland, Maine approved Question 2 52-48 as well, making it the second East Coast city to make marijuana legal for adult use at the local level. A similar ballot measure in Lewiston, Maine came in close; it received 45% of the vote and did not pass.

In Washington, D.C., voters approved Initiative 71 by an overwhelming margin of 65-28, removing all penalties for the possession and home cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana by adults.

Moreover, an overwhelming majority of Florida voters — 58% — approved Amendment 2, which would have allowed patients with serious and debilitating conditions access to medical marijuana upon a physician’s recommendation. Unfortunately, the measure failed to pass because Florida state law requires 60% support for approval.

Nonetheless, yesterday’s historic election was largely successful and demonstrated that American citizens are ready to end marijuana prohibition in the country for good.

We will update the details of election results if new data becomes available.

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