New Jersey Announces Major Expansion of Medical Marijuana Program


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Yesterday, Gov. Phil Murphy held a press conference to announce numerous changes to the medical marijuana program in New Jersey that will greatly improve patient access. These include:

  • Approving additional qualifying conditions under a process that was begun in 2016 — including chronic pain and opioid use disorder — which will help reduce opioid dependence and overdose.
  • Setting up a process to add additional businesses and remove the vertical integration requirement, which will increase competition and therefore reduce prices for patients.
  • Eliminating the physician registry, so that all doctors who wish to do so can recommend medical cannabis to their patients without jumping through hoops.
  • Removing the 10% THC cap imposed by regulation, because some patients need products with more THC for the most effective treatment.

In addition, the Department of Health’s report recommended additional changes, which would have to be made by the legislature. These include increasing the amount of cannabis that patients can purchase each month and allowing patients of all ages to purchase edibles if that’s their preferred delivery method.

You can read the Department of Health’s full report here. MPP will continue to work with the administration as it implements these changes,

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Illinois Bill Would Allow Patients to Substitute Medical Marijuana for Opiates


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Illinois State Sen. Dan Harmon is championing a bill that would allow individuals who are prescribed opioids to qualify for access to medical cannabis. His bill, SB 336, is expected to receive a hearing tomorrow in the Senate Executive Committee.

Hundreds of thousands of people are prescribed opioids in Illinois. These drugs carry a very high risk of dependency, and they can cause significant long-term harm including the risk of overdose death. Medical cannabis is now providing relief around the country and reducing incidents of drug ovedose deaths where it is available. But Illinois is one of only three medical marijuana states where pain patients don’t qualify, unless they have a specifically listed disease.

This bill would also take the sensible step of removing the requirement that medical cannabis patients submit fingerprints, provided they qualify under the new provisions. It is a huge first step for the many Illinoisans suffering unbearable pain every day.

If you are an Illinois resident, please tell your senator to support SB 336 and vote “yes” if it is placed before the senator for a vote.

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New Hampshire Adds Chronic Pain to Qualifying Conditions


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New Hampshire’s therapeutic cannabis law is finally expanding to include patients who suffer from chronic pain. HB 157 went into effect on Tuesday, adding “moderate to severe chronic pain” as a qualifying condition. This new law will allow many more Granite Staters to use cannabis as an alternative to prescribed opioids — a critically important reform for a state that is struggling to turn the tide against opiate addiction.

Until this week, patients could only qualify with a pain diagnosis if their pain was deemed to be “severe” and related to one of the specific medical conditions provided for in the law. As a result, it was much easier for medical providers to prescribe opioids than to certify patients for therapeutic cannabis. Patients who would like to apply now that the law has changed can access the updated application forms here.

For those who are waiting for the addition of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that is scheduled to take effect on August 27.

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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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New York Closer to Allowing Medical Marijuana for Chronic Pain


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On Dec. 1, the New York Department of Health announced that it will add chronic pain as a qualifying condition for the medical marijuana program. It will publish proposed rules, “which will include language specifying the chronic pain conditions that would qualify for medical marijuana.”2000px-flag_of_new_york_city-svg
Under current law, patients only qualify if their pain is caused by one of a few qualifying conditions. Allowing medical cannabis for patients with chronic pain will vastly expand the number of seriously ill patients who can enroll in the program. Medical cannabis can reduce patients’ reliance on dangerous opioids and lead to a statewide reduction in opioid overdoes.
Once the Department of Health publishes its proposed rules, the public will have the opportunity to comment before they become final. Stay tuned for more information about how you can submit your comments, and please pass the good news on to other compassionate New Yorkers.
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Legal Drug Deaths Skyrocket


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The number of fatal poisonings involving opioid painkillers more than tripled from 1999 to 2006, from 4,000 to 13,800 in one year, according to a new report from the CDC. These drugs – Vicodin, OxyContin, fentanyl, and their relatives – now account for 37 percent of poisoning deaths, up from 21 percent in 1999. And the Associated Press reports that drug deaths now exceed auto accident fatalities in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

The drugs that killed nearly 14,000 people in 2006 are, of course, legal medicines. They have been approved for sale by the same federal government that bars medical use of marijuana – for which the count of medically confirmed overdose fatalities remains zero.

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This gets even crazier when you consider that – as we’ve pointed out before – there is evidence that use of medical marijuana can help some pain patients reduce their doses of these dangerous and addictive narcotics.

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Could Medical Marijuana Have Saved Michael Jackson?


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Okay, let me say right up front that a) I know that headline is provocative, and b) neither I nor anyone can answer the question with any certainty given what we know and don’t know so far about Michael Jackson’s death. But the question needs to be asked.

It needs to be asked because suspicions that prescription painkillers may have been involved in Jackson’s death are strong enough that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration has been brought into the investigation. And we know that he had a documented history of battling pain and at least some acknowledged problems with prescription painkillers.

We don’t know yet what pain drugs Jackson was on or what they were prescribed for. But if he was addicted to prescription painkillers, that addiction almost certainly started with legitimate and needed treatment for real pain. And that’s where medical marijuana might have helped. Read the rest of this entry »

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