Puerto Rico Governor Clears Path to Medical Marijuana


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Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla

On Sunday, the governor of Puerto Rico signed an order that will allow the territory to establish some kind of medical marijuana program in the near future.

Associated Press reports:

Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said the island’s health secretary has three months to issue a report detailing how the executive order will be implemented, the impact it will have and what future steps could be taken. The order went into immediate effect.

“We’re taking a significant step in the area of health that is fundamental to our development and quality of life,” Garcia said in a statement. “I am sure that many patients will receive appropriate treatment that will offer them new hope.”

The order directs the health department to authorize the use of some or all controlled substances or derivatives of the cannabis plant for medical use.

Garcia said the government also will soon outline the specific authorized uses of marijuana and its derivatives for medical purposes.

Lawmakers in Puerto Rico have been attempting to pass medical marijuana legislation for at least two years, so this is certainly good news. However, it is up to health secretary to design an effective bill that ensures safe, reliable access to whole-plant marijuana products.

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Montana Judge Protects Medical Marijuana Program, but More Work Needed


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Two and half years ago, the Montana legislature gutted the 2004 voter-approved medical marijuana law and replaced it with a law that got as close to repeal as possible. Since then, the state has been fighting in the courts to defend its ill-considered law. Victory was finally handed to Montana patients this month when the presiding judge ruled that caregivers can continue to operate under the state’s marginally functional system. This means they can continue serving an unlimited number of patients — not just the three that the 2011 law allowed, in addition to other important provisions.

While the ruling allows patients at least some access to their medicine, it falls short of the sensible medical marijuana dispensary system that patients deserve, and that almost every other medical marijuana state now has.

Don’t allow the Montana legislature to ignore its responsibility to protect its citizens.  Please pass this message to friends, family, and supporters and ask them to send a clear message to their state legislators!

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Illinois Medical Marijuana Patients In Limbo


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606 days. That’s how long it’s been since the Illinois General Assembly passed the medical cannabis law. Today, after all that time, nobody can say when seriously ill patients will be able to access medical cannabis.

Rauner
Gov. Bruce Rauner

If you are an Illinois resident, please take a moment to tell the governor the wait is inexcusable. Click here for instructions on how to call Gov. Rauner’s office and demand he use his authority to advance this program. Or, click here to send an email.

On May 17, 2013, a coalition of seriously ill patients, doctors, legislators, community leaders, and MPP’s lobbying team saw passage of a compassionate law that was 10 years in the making. Sadly, the best-case scenario is that it will take two years from that date for Illinois to provide relief to those patients.

Since then, the state has developed rules in a system that is one of the most regulated — and some say one of the most over-regulated — systems in the country. Businesses applied four months ago and press reports indicated licenses would be issued by the end of 2014. Yet they still have not been selected, meaning patients are at least four more months from access (the amount of time it takes for a plant to produce harvestable cannabis).

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Virginia Poll Shows Strong Support for Marijuana Policy Reform


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 A strong majority of state voters support reforming Virginia marijuana laws, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday. The poll of 884 registered VirginiaVA seal voters was conducted January 2-4 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3%. The full results are available at http://mppmain.wpengine.com/VApoll.

Three out of five Virginians surveyed support removing criminal penalties for possessing up to an ounce of pot and three out of four back medical marijuana use for seriously or terminally ill patients, according to a survey released Tuesday by an advocacy group.

Forty-nine percent polled support legalizing marijuana for adults

“Most voters do not support laws that saddle people with criminal penalties just for possessing a small amount of marijuana,” said Rachelle Yeung, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “These antiquated prohibition laws are causing far more problems than they solve.”

The survey by Public Policy Polling found that 60 percent of voters questioned say the criminal penalties for possession of up an an ounce should be replaced with a $100 fine with no possibility of jail time. The offense currently is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

The Virginia Senate this year is to consider making personal possession punishable only by a civil fine of $100.

Seventy-four percent of those polled backed the medical marijuana use for seriously and terminally ill patients. Sixty-four percent said they would be more likely to vote for a legislator who supported the change.

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Federal Lawsuit Filed to Derail Washington State from Collecting Taxes on Marijuana Sales


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Martin Nickerson
Martin Nickerson, owner of Northern Cross Collective Gardens

Martin Nickerson has filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Washington, attempting to bar the state from collecting taxes on marijuana sales. Washington state officials are demanding that he pay taxes on those sales to the tune of $62,000. However, since Nickerson is under prosecution for the criminal sale of marijuana as a medical marijuana producer, he claims that forcing him to pay taxes on his sales would violate his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Alison Holcomb, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who was the main author of Washington State’s successful ballot initiative, said the lawsuit has a low probability of taking down the state’s legal marijuana system.

Suppliers like Nickerson have already made public their intent to break federal law, Holcomb said, so paying taxes on their proceeds would not do much to further incriminate them.

“Paying taxes on marijuana implicates you, but so does everything else about being engaged in this system,” she said.

Ultimately, the case brings into question whether federal laws trump state laws when it comes to collecting tax revenue generated from marijuana sales. The outcome of this case could have a significant impact on medical marijuana businesses around the country.

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Pro Football Hall of Famer, Jonathan Ogden, Applies for Medical Marijuana Dispensary License


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Jonathan Ogden
Jonathan Ogden

Jonathan Ogden, retired Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle, has applied for a medical marijuana dispensary license in Nevada, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. There are a limited number of licenses available in Nevada, so it is still unclear whether or not Ogden will own a dispensary.

One hundred and nine other companies have filed applications, and only 66 will be licensed this year, 40 of which will reside in Las Vegas (Clark county) where Ogden has applied. Applicants must also show they have $250,000 in liquid assets and have a licensed physician as the medical director to apply.

Hopefully, the NFL will feel the pressure of having Hall of Fame leaders like Ogden publicly support medical marijuana. The NFL’s stance on medical marijuana hasn’t evolved to the same extent as that of the nation at large, and the organization still imposes strict laws on players via steep fines and suspensions. However, with the NBA and NCAA rethinking their marijuana-use policies, perhaps, the NFL will move in the direction of acceptance.

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Blake Griffin Endorses Medical Marijuana Use in the NBA


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Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin, LA Clippers

In an interview with Rolling Stone yesterday, Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers voiced his support of medical marijuana use to treat pain in the NBA.  Currently, the NBA has strict penalties for drug use, which typically lead to suspensions and fines. It was only in 2011 that the NBA stopped testing for marijuana use in the off-season, but now that marijuana is in the limelight, its place in the NBA, as a form of medical treatment for pain, has come into question.

Griffin was asked:

The NFL might let players use medical marijuana to treat pain. If you had a vote, would the NBA do the same?

It doesn’t really affect me, but so many guys would probably benefit from it and not take as many painkillers, which have worse long-term effects. So I would vote yes. I just think it makes sense.

 Griffin joins the chorus of other outspoken athletes like Larry Sanders of the Milwaukee Bucks, who said earlier this year, “I believe in marijuana and the medical side of it.”

Like any professional sport, the need for painkillers is a part of the game, and, as Griffin pointed out, the harmful long-term effects of some painkillers makes medical marijuana use an alluring alternative. Even the World Anti-Doping Agency and the UFC have begun by changing their thresholds of permissible amounts of marijuana.

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Maryland Becomes 21st Medical Marijuana State, and 18th to Decriminalize


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Yesterday morning, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law both the medical marijuana bill and the decriminalization bill, making Maryland the 21st state with an effective medical marijuana program, and the 18th state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The medical marijuana bill expands a program that, while established last year, was unable to get off the ground. The previous law relied on the participation of teaching hospitals, which understandably did not want to be involved with a substance that is still federally illegal. The law signed today will allow registered cultivators to grow medical marijuana and up to 15 licensed cultivators to provide the medicine to patients and dispensaries. This new law will finally provide real access to seriously ill Marylanders.

The decriminalization law removes the criminal penalties for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, and replaces them with a civil fine of up to $100 for a first offense, up to $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for subsequent offenses. Third-time offenders and individuals under 21 years of age will be required to undergo a clinical assessment for substance abuse disorder and a drug education program. The measure will officially go into effect on October 1.

This is incredible progress, but our work is not done yet. A September 2013 poll found that 53% of Marylanders support legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and up, and taxing and regulating it like alcohol.

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Florida Democrats Add Medical Marijuana to the Ballot to Boost Voter Turnout for the Midterm Election


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Florida Democrats are pushing for a constitutional amendment that would put medical marijuana on the state’s ballot this November. If the initiative passes, Florida would become the first southern state to legalize some form of marijuana usage. Recent Battleground polls have shown widespread support, especially among young voters.

In a previous MPP blog post, we discussed how about 70% of voters (nationwide) would be more likely to vote this fall if marijuana was on the ballot, and how midterm elections traditionally have lower voter turnout, especially with young voters and liberals. In the 2012 elections, Washington and Colorado both saw significant spikes in voter turnout, possibly due to marijuana being on the ballot. If Florida follows suit, it will be a testament to marijuana’s spillover effect.

Florida Democrats are hoping it “could have a marginal impact,” which doesn’t sound like much, but “a marginal impact in Florida could be the difference between winning and losing,” according to Steve Schale, a Democratic consultant who managed Obama’s Florida campaign in 2008.

A recent Republican victory in a special House election last month typified the Democrats’ turnout problem. The St. Petersburg-area district has 2.4 percent more registered Republicans than Democrats, but GOP voters outnumbered Democrats by eight percentage points, according to election results.

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Oklahomans for Health Files Ballot Initiative for Medical Marijuana


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Chris Benge, Oklahoma Secretary of State
Chris Benge, Oklahoma Secretary of State

Today, Oklahomans for Health submitted an application for petition with Oklahoma Secretary of State, Chris Benge, which proposes to add a question to the November ballot asking whether or not Oklahomans should legalize medical marijuana for serious conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

The initiative would call for the reclassification of marijuana as an herbal drug, which would be regulated by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. It would also create licensing and regulatory rules for cultivation and distribution through dispensaries. Patients wanting to use medical marijuana would need to pay a $125 application fee for a medical marijuana card and have an Oklahoma board-certified physician provide a recommendation.

The proposed initiative comes at a time when support for medical marijuana is growing in the state with a recent poll showing 71% approval rate for decriminalizing medical marijuana. A rally was held at the State Capital in February, where parents of epileptic children came to talk to their representatives. Even Josh Stanley of Strains of Hope, featured on WEEDS by Sanjay Gupta, showed up to support Oklahomans in their plight.

Although Oklahoma has some of the harshest marijuana laws, Chip Paul, Chairman of Oklahomans for Health, believes the “language in this initiative…should be a very easy thing for the state of Oklahoma to manage.”

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