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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WV Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Bill


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West Virginia is on the verge of becoming the next state with an effective medical marijuana law!

The bill received final approval in the West Virginia Legislature on Thursday and is headed to the desk of Gov. Jim Justice. He has publicly expressed support for legal access to medical marijuana and is expected to sign the bill into law, making West Virginia the 29th state to adopt an effective medical marijuana law.

SB 386, titled the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, charges the Bureau of Public Health with regulating medical marijuana growers, processors, and dispensaries. Patients with specifically listed qualifying medical conditions will be allowed to use extracts, tinctures, and other preparations of marijuana, but not marijuana in flower or leaf form. This differs from the original version of the bill and the medical marijuana programs in most other states. A summary of SB 386 is available at http://bit.ly/2nbUAq3.

MPP issued the following statement in a press release:

“Some of the House amendments to the bill are concerning, but it still has the potential to provide relief to thousands of seriously ill WestVirginians,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “We commend the Legislature for passing this compassionate and much-needed legislation, and we encourage Gov. Justice to sign it into law.

“This will be an important and, in some cases, life-saving program,” Simon said. “It is critical that the state implement it promptly. We are committed to working with officials to make sure the program is as effective as possible and to get it up and running in a timely fashion. Many patients cannot afford to wait much longer.

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West Virginia House of Delegates Approves Medical Marijuana Bill With Amendments


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A bill that would allow patients with certain debilitating conditions to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it was approved by the West Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday. SB 386 passed 76-24 on third reading after being revised on second reading.

SB 386 was originally introduced by Sen. Richard Ojeda (D-Logan) in the Senate, where it was approved 28-6 last week. The House version of the bill, which is titled the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, would charge the Bureau of Public Health with regulating medical marijuana growers, processors, and dispensaries, while the Senate version would set up a 16-member independent commission. Under the amended House bill, patients with specifically listed qualifying medical conditions could use extracts, tinctures, and other preparations of marijuana, but not marijuana in flower or leaf form. This differs from the Senate version of the bill and most of the other state medical marijuana programs.

MPP issued the following statement in a press release:

“The Legislature has answered the prayers of many seriously ill West Virginians and their families,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “This could be life-saving legislation for some patients. We commend House members for working diligently to make sure it passes this year, but we urge the Legislature to continue efforts to make sure the program truly works for the seriously ill and to ensure it does not unnecessarily drive up costs.”

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West Virginia Senate Approves Medical Marijuana


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The West Virginia Senate has voted to approve a medical marijuana bill Wednesday. SB 386, sponsored by Sen. Richard Ojeda, passed the Senate in a 28-6 vote! The bill will now move to the House.

In the past, House Speaker Tim Armstead has not been willing to allow medical marijuana bills to be considered. However, if enough delegates are willing to stand up and support this critical reform, it will be possible to overcome the speaker’s opposition.

“We applaud the Senate for standing up for seriously ill West Virginians and giving them hope with this much-needed legislation,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “For many patients, medical marijuana is a far safer alternative to opioids and other prescription drugs. Any delegates who are serious about addressing the opiate crisis in West Virginia need to consider the substantial benefits this law could have on that front.  We hope Speaker Armstead will review the facts and give this bill a fair shake in the House.”

If you are a West Virginia resident, please call your delegates’ offices right now, and urge them to support allowing medical marijuana in West Virginia.

It’s also imperative that you call House Speaker Tim Armstead’s office at (304) 340-3210, and urge House leaders to stop stonewalling on this important issue.

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Key Committee Approves Marijuana Possession Bill in Vermont


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The Vermont House Judiciary Committee voted 8-3 to approve H. 170, a bill that would eliminate penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana and a small number of plants. Additionally, an independent poll commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project and conducted by Public Policy Polling found that 57% of Vermonters support H. 170.

As amended by the committee, H. 170 would eliminate penalties for adults 21 and older who possess one ounce or less of marijuana, two mature plants, and four immature plants — as well as the marijuana produced by those plants, if stored properly in accordance with the law. Possession of between one and two ounces would become a civil violation punishable by a fine.

“Today’s vote shows just how far this issue has advanced in just this past year,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a press release. “Most Vermonters agree it makes no sense to continue punishing adults for consuming a less harmful substance than alcohol — especially now that it is legal for adults in Massachusetts and Maine. Vermonters are ready to close the book on marijuana prohibition.”

If you are a Vermont resident, it is critically important that you call or email your representatives today and urge them to vote YES on H. 170.

 

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University of Vermont to Host Public Forum on Marijuana Policy


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Legislative leaders in Montpelier are describing last week’s victory in Massachusetts as a “game changer” for Vermont. This week, Sen. Dick Sears, chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, told a VPR reporter, “For me, that’s a game-changer, that Massachusetts has voted to legalize. Rep. Maxine Grad, chair of the equally powerful House Judiciary Committee, agreed and said she thought the House would be much more amenable to ending marijuana prohibition now that legalization is definitely coming to a neighboring state.university_of_vermont
It is critical that we continue building momentum for legalization and regulation. We had a very successful event this week, and we’re looking forward to another great event called “Cannabis on Campus” on Thursday, Dec. 1, at the University of Vermont. Here are the details:
WHAT: Cannabis on Campus: The Implications of Reform in Vermont and Beyond
(This event is free and open to the public.)
WHO: Hosted by the Community Development and Applied Economics Department at UVM in partnership with Heady Vermont. Program includes presentations on medical cannabis and hemp, and a debate between MPP’s Matt Simon and SAM-VT’s Margo Austin about legalization and regulation for adult use.
WHEN: Thursday, December 1
6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
WHERE: Dudley H. Davis Student Center
University of Vermont
590 Main St.
Burlington, VT 05405
Please forward this message to your friends and family. If you use Facebook, please RSVP and share the event page.
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Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Launches TV Ad Campaign


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The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana released a new television ad this week, produced by the Marijuana Policy Project, featuring Vermont’s former top law enforcement official. The ad began airing statewide on Tuesday and will appear on WCAX, CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC through Sunday.

VT commercial screenshot

In the ad, titled “Time to End Prohibition (Again),” former Vermont Attorney General Kimberly Cheney points out that “marijuana prohibition has caused a lot of the same problems” as Alcohol Prohibition. The ad ends with Cheney urging viewers to contact their state senators and tell them, “It’s time to end prohibition and start regulating marijuana in Vermont.”

In a news release, MPP’s Montpelier-based New England political director, Matt Simon, said:

“Mr. Cheney decided to appear in this ad for the same reason he served as the state’s top law enforcement official. He cares strongly about the safety and wellbeing of Vermont citizens. 

“There are a lot of current and former law enforcement officials out there who support ending prohibition and regulating marijuana. It’s important that citizens and lawmakers hear from them.”

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Vermont Attorney General Predicts Legislature Will Legalize Marijuana 2016


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Attorney General Bill Sorrell

While many states will be considering making marijuana legal in 2016, Vermont may be the first to do so through its legislature. MPP’s New England Political Director Matt Simon is so optimistic that he is moving to the state from nearby New Hampshire in order to spend more time working with lawmakers there. Now, the state’s attorney general has predicted that Vermont will make history next year.

VTDigger.org reports:

[Attorney General Bill] Sorrell said in an interview Tuesday that while he doesn’t have any “insider information,” it’s his belief that the General Assembly will pass, and the governor will sign, legislation to legalize and regulate the recreational use and sale of marijuana during the upcoming legislative session.

While no “prominent Vermonter” has told him that marijuana will be legalized, his reading of the tea leaves (“or the marijuana leaves,” he quipped) is that this is the year for legalization.

“Let me put it this way, I will be surprised if marijuana is not legalized in this next legislative session,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chris Christie Reaffirms Opposition to State Marijuana Legalization


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In recent months, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has repeatedly said that he does not agree with marijuana legalization and would most likely end the current policy which allows states to determine their own marijuana laws provided they meet certain criteria, earning him a grade of “F” on MPP’s Presidential Report Card.

On Tuesday, Gov. Christie reaffirmed this position, saying that state laws making marijuana legal are numbered if he is elected president. The Huffington Post reports:

“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie said Tuesday during a Newport, New Hampshire, town-hall meeting, Bloomberg reports. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.”

Christie, one of 16 Republicans campaigning for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, has made no secret of his long-held opposition to cannabis. As governor of New Jersey, he has opposed even his own state’s limited medical marijuana program and has called similar laws in 22 other states a “front” for full recreational legalization. He has described taxes generated from the sale of marijuana as “blood money.” And earlier this year in no uncertain terms, he said that, as president, he would “crack down and not permit” recreational cannabis in states that have legalized it.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Vermont Poll Shows Majority Support Making Marijuana Legal


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A new poll released by the Castleton Polling InstituteScreen Shot 2015-03-18 at 4.46.33 PM shows that a majority of Vermont residents want to make marijuana legal and regulated for adults.

VTDigger.org reports:

Respondents in the recent poll were asked: “Two states — Washington and Colorado — have legalized and regulated marijuana for recreational use. Do you support or oppose passing a similar law in Vermont to legalize and regulate marijuana for recreational use?”

Of those surveyed, 54 percent supported the idea with 40 percent opposed. Six percent had no opinion.

Support was particularly strong among young people with 70 percent of respondents age 18-44 (or 161 people) in favor. The results were about opposite for those 65 and older, who opposed legalization 61 percent to 30 percent.

“Clearly, the opposition remains most substantial among voters who are 65-plus and Republicans,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project. “I guess some people remain nostalgic for a simpler time when you could ‘Just Say No’ and be done with the issue, but any realistic person realizes that those days are long gone — that marijuana is here to stay whether we like it or not, and we have to figure out how best to deal with it.”

Vermont lawmakers are currently considering a bill which would tax and regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol.

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