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Updated: 14 hours 25 min ago

Illinois: Two medical marijuana improvement bills are on the move

Fri, 05/25/2018 - 13:51

The Illinois House of Representatives may soon vote on SB 336, which would allow those who could be prescribed opioid drugs to qualify for the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. Last month, the Senate passed the measure by a wide margin, but its future in the House is less certain.

If you are an Illinois resident, please take a moment to voice your support with your lawmaker today.

While opioids can be highly addictive and dangerous, many seriously ill patients across the country are opting for a safer alternative. Medical cannabis has emerged as an effective option for hundreds of thousands of patients around the U.S. Yet, Illinois’ medical cannabis law does not include pain as a qualifying condition. It’s past time to allow patients to use cannabis instead of opiate-based medications.

Another bill which would also provide patients welcome relief passed both chambers and is now on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk. If signed, HB 4870 would allow students who are registered patients to access medical cannabis at school under certain circumstances. While limited, it is an important improvement to ensure patients do not have to choose between their health and their education. If you are an Illinois resident, call Gov. Rauner at (217) 782-0244 and ask him to sign this important bill into law.

 

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Louisiana Legislature passes medical marijuana reform this session

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 12:37

This session, the Louisiana Legislature passed two bills to expand the qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. HB 579 and HB 627 add a variety of new conditions including autism, PTSD, and intractable pain. These bills are now on Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk. If you have a second, call the governor and politely ask him to sign HB 579 and HB 627. His constituent services number is (225) 342-0991.

This is a great step towards Louisiana having a functional medical marijuana program. Next session, we are hopeful the legislature will allow the vaporization of medical marijuana so that patients can finally have real access to the medicine they need.

Many thanks go out to the activists that showed up to the statehouse and contacted their lawmakers in support of these reforms!

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Injustice in NYC: marijuana arrests far more likely for minorities

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 12:28

We’ve known for years that marijuana laws disproportionately harm people of color, but the results of a recent New York Times investigation are still shocking. According to the report:

  • Black New York City residents are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites; Hispanic residents are five times more likely.
  • During the first three months of this year, 89% of the 4,000 marijuana arrests in New York City were Black or Hispanic.

It doesn’t make sense to arrest an adult for possessing or consuming marijuana, but the racial disparities in these arrest rates make the injustice of marijuana prohibition even more intolerable.

The situation in New York City is so morally indefensible that the Manhattan district attorney announced his office will no longer prosecute low-level marijuana cases, and Mayor Bill de Blasio is directing police to stop arresting people for public consumption of marijuana.

Those are positive steps, but the solution is to repeal the destructive policy of marijuana prohibition.

 

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House Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Protections

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 12:59

The House Appropriations Committee voted Thursday to continue blocking the Justice Department from interfering in state medical marijuana laws.

On a voice vote, the committee approved an amendment offered by Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) to the base FY2019 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, prohibiting the Justice Department from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state laws that allow the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana for medical purposes. The bill will now be considered by the full House.

Such a provision has been in effect since 2014, but this is the first time it has been added to the base CJS Appropriations bill in committee. In previous years, the measure, which was known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment (and subsequently the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment), was added to the bill as a floor amendment, but last year Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) blocked it from receiving a floor vote.

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Rhode Island Legalization Bill Introduced

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 10:59

Sen. Joshua Miller (D – Cranston) is once again submitting a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana in Rhode Island. As marijuana businesses are poised to open their doors in Massachusetts this summer, Sen. Miller hopes his colleagues will understand the wisdom in acting now.

“Legal marijuana sales will be available to Rhode Islanders as soon as Massachusetts retailers start offering it in July,” Sen. Miller said. “But Massachusetts will keep the revenue from the purchases when Rhode Islanders cross the border to get it.”

This legislation would make it legal for adults 21 and older to grow and possess limited amounts of marijuana. It would also set up a system for the Department of Business Regulation to oversee the licensing and operation of legal marijuana businesses. Most importantly, Sen. Miller’s bill would end the failed approach of punishing adults who choose to use marijuana, a policy which has caused much harm in Rhode Island.

If you are a Rhode Island resident, please call your state senator and representative and ask them to push for a vote on Sen. Miller’s bill.

 

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Two Vermont Counties Will Host Expungement Events in June

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 10:30

Now that Vermont’s marijuana legalization law is set to take effect on July 1, the state’s attorneys (prosecutors) for two counties have announced that they will host “Expungement Day” clinics in June to assist Vermonters with having their records cleared of misdemeanor marijuana offenses. Volunteers with the Center for Justice Reform at the Vermont Law School will reportedly assist with filling out expungement petitions in Windsor County on June 9 and in Chittenden County on June 12.

WHAT: Windsor County Expungement Clinic
WHERE: Vermont Law School, Oakes Hall Room 012, South Royalton
WHEN: Saturday, June 9, 9 a.m. to noon

WHAT: Chittenden County Expungement Clinic
WHERE: Costello Courthouse, Courtroom 2C, 32 Cherry Street, Burlington
WHEN: Tuesday, June 12, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Please note that there will likely be a fee required when the petition is filed.

If you have been convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession in another Vermont county, you may wish to call and ask what it would take to have your record expunged. You can find phone numbers for all of Vermont’s state’s attorneys’ offices here.

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CBD Now Allowed Under Kansas Law — If It Has No THC

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 10:26

In a small step forward for patients who could benefit from medical cannabis, the definition of “marijuana” under Kansas law was changed by SB 282 to exclude cannabidiol (CBD). However, because state law separately bans tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), it will be difficult for medical cannabis patients to take advantage of this provision, because most CBD products contain at least trace amounts of THC (“hemp” is sometimes defined as 0.3% THC or less).

The bill itself does not provide for in-state access to CBD oils in Kansas, and CBD products are generally still illegal under federal law, as the Drug Enforcement Administration clarified in a rule that was recently upheld in federal court. But, there may be a narrow exception under a federal law allowing hemp research programs — and Gov. Colyer also recently signed a bill that will create such a program in Kansas.

While there are a number of “CBD” products available online, these products are typically unregulated, and unfortunately some do not actually contain the amount of CBD on the label — or any at all — or they also contain THC or dangerous compounds such as heavy metals. A more reliable way to obtain CBD oil would be to get it in a state with a regulated cannabis market such as Colorado, but doing so can be costly and onerous.

Despite its limitations, this is step forward. Once the law takes effect (which will happen when it is formally published), if patients are caught in possession of CBD oil that contains no THC, they will no longer be subject to prosecution for marijuana possession under Kansas law. With the passage of this bill, Idaho is now the only remaining state that does not acknowledge the medical benefits of cannabinoids in any way!

The post CBD Now Allowed Under Kansas Law — If It Has No THC appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Missouri Medical Marijuana Measures On the Move

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 11:38

It’s been quite a week for medical marijuana efforts in Missouri!

Last Tuesday, the Missouri House of Representatives voted 112-44 to approve a very limited medical marijuana measure. Then, on Friday and Sunday, campaigns handed in signatures for three different medical marijuana ballot measures.

New Approach Missouri and Find the Cure submitted signatures proposing constitutional ballot measures, while Missourians for Patient Care turned in petitions for a statutory measure. Next, the secretary of state will review the signatures to see if enough are valid for the measures to make Missouri’s November ballot.

Turning back to the legislature, HB 1554 would improve Missouri’s existing low-THC cannabis oil law, but it is extremely limited and flawed. If you are a Missouri resident and would like to weigh in on the measure, please urge your senator to push for the bill to be strengthened.

HB 1554 leaves behind pain patients, steering them to more dangerous opioids. It also doesn’t allow “combustible” marijuana or for patients to be assisted by caregivers. Furthermore, patients can’t qualify unless a physician certifies they would benefit from medical cannabis “at the same dosage and with the same method of smokeless administration used in a clinical trial.” Yet, the feds have stacked the deck against clinical trials, and there are very few with non-smoked cannabis. This catch-22 could deny patients the kind of cannabis they’d benefit from.

Please stay tuned for updates, and share this news with your networks in Missouri.

The post Missouri Medical Marijuana Measures On the Move appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Georgia Governor Signs Bill Expanding Low-THC Cannabis Oil Program

Tue, 05/08/2018 - 12:51

Yesterday, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed a bill that will significantly expand the number of patients who qualify for the state’s low-THC medical cannabis oils. Beginning on July 1, HB 65 will allow patients with intractable pain and adults with PTSD to qualify for the program, which allows registered patients to possess cannabis oils with no more than 5% THC content.

Georgia’s most passionate legislative champion of medical cannabis — Rep. Allen Peake (R) — sponsored both HB 65 and another bill — HB 645 — which would have allowed in-state production of cannabis oils. Currently, registered patients have nowhere to legally purchase cannabis oils in Georgia. Unfortunately, HB 645 didn’t receive a floor vote. However, HB 65 includes a study commission on in-state access to cannabis. Seriously ill patients who are already granted the ability to possess cannabis products clearly need a way to obtain them without sidestepping the law.

This is Rep. Peake’s last year in the legislature; he announced in February that he will not run for re-election. His leadership will be missed in the capital!

The post Georgia Governor Signs Bill Expanding Low-THC Cannabis Oil Program appeared first on MPP Blog.

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MPP’s West Virginia Primary Voter Guide

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 14:17

2018 was a frustrating year for marijuana policy in the West Virginia Legislature, with the Senate’s excellent version of a medical marijuana improvement bill never getting a House vote, and other reforms stalling. Fortunately, it is now election season, and candidates all over the state have been talking to voters about marijuana policy. The primary election will take place on Tuesday, May 8.

Before you go to the polls tomorrow, please take time to review MPP’s voter guide for the West Virginia primary election. After sending surveys to all candidates for state House of Delegates and state Senate and compiling their responses, we now have quite a bit of information available on candidates. The voter guide also includes votes cast by incumbent legislators and any available public statements.

The post MPP’s West Virginia Primary Voter Guide appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Colorado Legislature Approves On-Site Consumption Lounges

Fri, 05/04/2018 - 13:38

House Bill 1258 passed both houses of the Colorado General Assembly and is now heading to the governor’s desk. If signed, the bill would allow approved retail cannabis stores to open a tasting room where on-site cannabis consumption is allowed.

This is yet another big step forward in a state that has long been a leader in cannabis policy. If the bill becomes law, customers could purchase concentrates for vaping on site, along with edible marijuana products. Visitors to the shops would not be allowed to bring their own cannabis products, consume whole-plant cannabis, or smoke on site.

Although Colorado voters ended cannabis prohibition in 2012, restrictions on where cannabis can be consumed have been a burden, particularly for visitors to the state and people living in public housing. While purchases are allowed, there are few options for those who are unable to consume at a private residence. HB 1258 offers a solution by establishing regulated locations where adults can gather and consume without fear of breaking local or state law.

Many responsible marijuana consumers in Colorado believe they should be able to meet in a social setting, no different than those who enjoy a beer with friends at a public place.

If you are a Colorado resident, please ask Gov. John Hickenlooper to sign HB 1258 without delay.

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Universities in California and Utah Receive Funding to Pursue New Medical Marijuana Research

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 14:17

The University of Utah Health and the University of California San Diego recently announced separate plans to begin new phases of research on medical marijuana. In Utah, the study will focus on the individual effects of cannabinoids on brain processes, while UC San Diego researchers will probe possible treatments for autism with marijuana. Both projects have been made possible by grants from the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation in partnership with the Wholistic Research and Education Foundation.

The University of Utah Health received $740,000 to support innovative brain-imaging research, which will analyze how various cannabinoids affect cognition, stress, and pain. The study will involve 40 healthy young adults and seek to understand the causal mechanisms through which cannabinoids interact with receptors in the brain.

“Deciphering the personalized effects of CBD [cannabidiol] and THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] will have a profound impact on how various cannabinoids may best be used for medical treatments,” said Jon-Kar Zubieta, MD, PhD, chair of the University of Utah School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and the study’s co-principal investigator.

With the support of a $4.7 million gift — the largest amount ever donated for medical marijuana research in the United States — the University of California San Diego will study the effects of CBD on autism. This research, the first of its kind, will investigate how CBD might correct neurochemical imbalances in individuals with autism, a condition that impacts an estimated 1 in 68 children born today.

“There are unconfirmed reports that cannabidiol could be helpful, but there are no careful studies to document either its benefits or its safety,” commented Igor Grant, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “This gift will enable our researchers to develop and implement a translational program of research that pairs a clinical trial with detailed neurobehavioral observation, as well as basic science studies to determine if cannabidiol holds therapeutic promise, and if so, via what mechanisms.”

The post Universities in California and Utah Receive Funding to Pursue New Medical Marijuana Research appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Maine Legislature Overrides Marijuana Regulation Bill Veto

Wed, 05/02/2018 - 12:42

Today, the Maine House and Senate overrode Gov. LePage’s veto of the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee’s bill that establishes a regulatory framework for marijuana sales.

LD 1719 creates the rules for licensing and regulating marijuana producers, processors, and retail establishments and sets the tax rates for adult-use marijuana. The bill does not implement the portion of the voter-approved initiative that calls for social consumption lounges.

While the bill was by no means perfect, we are glad that the state is moving forward with implementation, and soon there will be a legal way for adults to purchase marijuana.

Here is the link to LD 1719 if you are interested in reading the full text of the bill.

We are disappointed that social clubs were removed from the law and that adults may now only cultivate three plants at home instead of six. We will be working with the next legislature and governor to improve upon the work the legislature has accomplished. To that end, we have sent a survey to the candidates running for governor, asking if they will make implementation a priority once elected. Stay tuned for the results of the survey before the June primary election.

The post Maine Legislature Overrides Marijuana Regulation Bill Veto appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Zimbabwe to Allow Medical Marijuana

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 12:45

As public support for medical marijuana hovers over 90% in the United States while Congress continues to struggle to pass comprehensive legislation that would permanently protect state medical marijuana programs, Zimbabwe recently became the second African nation to legalize medical marijuana.

Marijuana Business Daily reports:

Details of the country’s cannabis regulations were announced in the government gazette on Friday, according to Zimbabwe’s state-owned newspaper, The Herald. (The gazette prints official notices and laws from the government.)

Five-year renewable licenses would allow growers to possess, transport and sell cannabis oil and fresh and dried cannabis, according to Reuters, which reported to have viewed Zimbabwe’s regulations.

The regulatory change came via Statutory Instrument 62, which amended the Dangerous Drugs Act to include Production of Cannabis for Medicinal and Scientific Use Regulations, The Herald reported.

“In the case of a company, proof of citizenship or proof of being ordinarily resident in Zimbabwe of the majority of directors or proof of an exemption by the Minister and proof of incorporation in Zimbabwe of the company…” according to the regulations.

Production must be licensed by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare.

No details are available on whether imports or exports would be permitted or how local MMJ consumption would be regulated.

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Illinois Senate Approves a Safer Option for Opioid Patients

Fri, 04/27/2018 - 12:23

An important medical marijuana bill emerged from the Senate yesterday that could bring welcome relief to seriously ill patients around the state. Senate Bill 336 would allow patients who qualify for opioid prescriptions to enroll in the state’s medical cannabis program. SB 336, sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Don Harmon and Chris Nybo, emerged with a strong 44-6 vote in support. The bill is now in the House.

Seriously ill patients should not be pushed towards some of the most harmful drugs available, particularly when there is a safer alternative. Studies in recent years have supported what many medical marijuana patients already know: medical cannabis can be an effective alternative for patients who might otherwise rely on opioid drugs.

Sen. Harmon’s bill would not only provide that alternative, it would also make other critically important improvements to the state program, including removing the current fingerprint requirement for all patients. Rep. Kelly Cassidy has already stepped in as chief co-sponsor in the House, along with over two dozen other House members who have joined with her as co-sponsors. But it’s crunch time in Springfield, and lawmakers are now working through the busiest time of the year — it’s important the bill continue to advance without delay.

If you are an Illinois resident, please ask your representatives to support this bill and to consider co-sponsoring if they haven’t signed on already.

The post Illinois Senate Approves a Safer Option for Opioid Patients appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Michigan Legalization Initiative Qualifies for Ballot

Thu, 04/26/2018 - 12:56

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has cleared a major hurdle towards making marijuana legal in Michigan. This morning, the Board of State Canvassers approved the petition signatures, and the initiative to regulate marijuana will be on the ballot in November. If approved by voters, Michigan would become the first state in the Midwest with an adult-use cannabis law.

In addition to allowing adults age 21 and older to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana, the initiative would: regulate marijuana businesses that cultivate, process, test, transport, and sell marijuana; legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp (used to make textiles, biodegradable plastics, food, construction materials, and fuel); protect consumers with proper testing and safety regulations for retail marijuana; impose a 10 percent excise tax on marijuana sold at the retail level on top of the state’s six percent sales tax; and give local governments the option of whether they want to allow marijuana businesses in their communities.

Organizations supporting the coalition include the Marijuana Policy Project, the National Cannabis Industry Association, the ACLU of Michigan, the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Patients Rights Association, Michigan NORML, and MILegalize.

The initiative is being certified at a time when national attention is focused on marijuana policy reform. Earlier this month, President Trump reiterated his position in favor of not interfering with state marijuana policies in a conversation with Sen. Cory Gardner and assured him that the Department of Justice would not target individuals and businesses that are in compliance with state marijuana laws.

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N.H. Senate Committee Ignores Patients’ Testimony, Rejects Home Grow Bill

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 08:32

Yesterday, the New Hampshire Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 3-2 to reject a bill that would allow home cultivation of up to two mature cannabis plants and 12 seedlings by registered patients and caregivers. Instead of listening to the numerous patients who testified at the public hearing, the committee recommended that HB 1476 be sent to “interim study,” which would effectively kill it for the year. But there’s still hope. Next, the bill is expected to receive a vote in the full Senate sometime in the next few weeks. Gov. Chris Sununu has not expressed a public position on the bill.

This bill is critically important because many patients are unable to afford the products that are available at dispensaries, which are not covered by health insurance. For some patients, home cultivation is simply the best, most affordable option. There is no need for further study before allowing limited home cultivation by registered patients and caregivers, especially now that it is becoming clear that access to cannabis is a key to addressing the opiate crisis.

If you are a New Hampshire resident, please email your state senator’s office today and urge him or her to support HB 1476! Then, call Gov. Chris Sununu and urge him to do the same.

 

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Pennsylvania Health Dept. to Expand Medical Marijuana Program, Allow Flower Vaporization

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 11:30

The Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine announced the department will implement all of the advisory board’s recommended changes to the medical marijuana program. They include:

  • Allowing patients to use whole plant, flower cannabis via vaporization.
  • Rewording the qualifying condition “severe chronic or intractable pain” to delete the phrase “in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or ineffective.”
  • Allowing patients to qualify if they are undergoing “addiction substitute therapy — opioid reduction.”
  • Adding the following conditions to the program: cancer while in remission therapy, neurodegenerative diseases, dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders, and terminal illness.
  • Eventually requiring minor patients to have recommendations from a pediatrician or other pediatric or adolescent health specialist. (This could be problematic due to the very small number of pediatricians who are recommending cannabis.)

The department will promulgate regulations with these changes on May 12, and they will then undergo legislative review.

These changes would have a major impact for Pennsylvania patients. Allowing cannabis in its flower form is crucial to affordability. And with the revised wording for severe pain, Pennsylvania will no longer steer pain patients to more dangerous medications, such as opiates.

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Battle Over Home Cultivation in New Hampshire Intensifies

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 11:49

The New Hampshire Senate Health and Human Services Committee is expected to vote on HB 1476 next Tuesday, April 24.

The bill, which has already passed the House in a voice vote, would allow home cultivation of up to two mature cannabis plants and 12 seedlings by registered patients and caregivers. Many patients are unable to afford the products that are available at dispensaries, which are not covered by health insurance. Others have to drive long distances in order to reach a dispensary. For some patients, home cultivation is simply the best, most affordable option.

If you are a New Hampshire resident, please call or email your state senator’s office today and urge them to support allowing limited home cultivation.

 

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Key House Committee Advances Medical Marijuana Bill in South Carolina

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 11:32

The House version of the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, H 3521, emerged from committee today in a landslide 14-3 vote.

Unfortunately, a key deadline has passed, and it’s too late for the medical cannabis bill to become law this year. However, it’s important to remind lawmakers that patients and those who care for them are counting on their support.

There is much to be done before the bill becomes law, but today’s vote marks a big step forward for patients. Both the House and the Senate versions made it through their committees, and the bills were sent to the full bodies in both chambers.

Thank you to bill sponsors, Sen. Tom Davis and Rep. Peter McCoy, and the many supporters who have been active behind the scenes and at the hearings, including those who attended an educational symposium for lawmakers yesterday evening.

If you are a South Carolina resident, please contact your lawmakers and ask them to support the Compassionate Care Act in the next legislative session.

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