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Updated: 34 min 36 sec ago

Alaska Gets Initial Approval for On-Site Consumption at Marijuana Retailers

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 10:58

The regulatory body in charge of marijuana policy in Alaska has just taken steps to become the first state to allow on-site consumption at retail marijuana stores.

Alaska Dispatch News reports:

At the Alaska Marijuana Control Board’s meeting held Wednesday through Friday this week in Fairbanks, board members approved 3-2 a proposal to set up rules for on-site marijuana consumption at retail stores.

The proposal includes a draft of specific rules for everything from ventilation and location of these consumption areas to how much marijuana can be used there, and much more. Citizens will have 60 days to comment on the proposal before the draft rules come back to the board, likely at the November meeting.

In November 2015, the board voted to allow on-site consumption at marijuana stores. Alaska Dispatch News reported at the time that the amendment passed to allow such consumption would function “as a placeholder,” pending more specific rules. In February, Alaska Dispatch News reported the board abandoned a regulatory project that had been in the works since May 2016. But then, in March, the body decided it would take another stab at it.

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Senate Appropriations Committee Votes to Renew Protections for Medical Marijuana

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 10:43

On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) approved an amendment in a voice vote that would continue to protect state medical marijuana programs from federal interference.

The amendment, introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), would add a clause to the CJS budget for Fiscal Year 2018 that prevents the Dept. of Justice from using resources to prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers that are in compliance with state law. A similar amendment was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

In 2014, Congress added a similar amendment to an omnibus spending bill that prevented the Dept. of Justice from spending any resources to target state-legal medical marijuana businesses. This amendment was subsequently renewed, but now stands to expire.

If the CJS budget is approved in the Senate, the amendment will go to a special conference committee to reach a compromise with the House. If no budget is approved by September 30, the previous amendment will be automatically renewed for another year.

MPP’s Don Murphy made the following statement:

“More than half the states have taken a stand and said they want their seriously ill residents to have safe and reliable access to medical marijuana, and today the Senate Appropriations Committee listened. What was expected to be a very successful vote passed on an overwhelming voice vote, while opposition to the Leahy amendment was literally a whimper. That sound we heard in the Senate was the sound of a waving white flag as the federal war on medical marijuana patients and providers winds down.”

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Pennsylvania Launches Practitioner Registration

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 10:40

On Wednesday, Acting Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced important steps forward for Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program — practitioners can now register online, and the department approved two options for physician training.

Under Act 16, a doctor can only issue a certification for medical marijuana after registering with the Department of Health. The law also requires the physician complete a four-hour training course. The department has approved the first two providers of training courses, The Answer Page Inc. and Extra Step Assurance LLC.

For medical marijuana programs to work, doctors need to participate. If you are a Pennsylvania resident, talk to your doctor, and take a copy of Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Law: A Guide for Doctors and Patients with you for the conversation. Other materials are also available on MPP’s Pennsylvania page and our medical marijuana page.

It is unclear at this time when the department will begin accepting applications and issuing identification cards for patients and caregivers. Earlier in the summer, the department announced the first round of business permits, including 12 grower/processor permits and 27 dispensary permits, which may each have up to three locations. It will take some time for the businesses to open and begin dispensing cannabis, but registered patients may have access as soon as early 2018.

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Another Pennsylvania City Decriminalizes Possession

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 12:18

Early this week in Pennsylvania, the York City Council voted to make the possession of small amounts of marijuana a summary offense with a maximum fine of $100 and no jail time. Previously, it was a criminal misdemeanor that carried up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine, or both.

Imprisoning individuals for possessing small amounts of a substance that is safer than alcohol wastes valuable resources and can lead to a lifetime of harsh consequences, including denial of student financial aid, housing, employment, and professional licenses.

York joins Pennsylvania’s three largest cities — Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg — and twenty-two states and the District of Columbia, which have stopped jailing individuals for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Across the state, towns and cities are considering similar commonsense policies. The time has come for statewide decriminalization.

To get involved locally, contact the Keystone Cannabis Coalition. You can find some background materials on decriminalization here.

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Uruguay Marijuana Sales Begin This Week

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 11:43

Legal adult marijuana sales began in Uruguay on Wednesday, making it the first country in the world to establish a regulated market for the product. This follows previous phases of legalization permitting growers’ clubs and home cultivation.

Official sales have been long awaited following a legalization proposal put forward by former President José Mujica in 2012. This was given final approval by Parliament in December 2013 — legally regulating the production, distribution, and sale of marijuana — but has taken longer than expected to implement following a presidential election in 2015 and delays in funding for the regulatory authority.

Under the Uruguay model, the market is very much state-led. Two private firms — Symbiosis and the International Cannabis Corp. — have licenses to grow, package, and distribute marijuana, but production is capped to 400 tons annually (estimated to be around 15% of current consumption). These firms are not allowed to market the product, and the government determines the genetic makeup and THC content.

Legal sales take place in pharmacies in five-gram packages sold for 187 Uruguayan pesos ($6.50), with two products on offer: ‘Alfa 1’ and ‘Beta 1’. Only citizens and legal permanent residents aged 18 and older are allowed to purchase marijuana, and they must register with the government to do so. So far, almost 5,000 individuals have done so.

The introduction of this regulated market has been closely monitored and implemented, with the government taking measures to avoid creating a hub for marijuana tourism. All forms of advertising have been banned, and the production of infused edibles is prohibited. Additionally, consumers are limited to purchasing 40 grams a month — an amount monitored by fingerprint scans at every sale.

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New Hampshire Governor Signs Decriminalization Bill

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 08:50

Yesterday afternoon, with a stroke of New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s pen, the “Live Free or Die” state took a big step toward living up to its motto on marijuana policy. HB 640 is now officially on the books and will take effect in 60 days, making New Hampshire the 22nd state, and the final New England state, to decriminalize marijuana possession. You can read a summary of the new law here.

Unfortunately, Gov. Sununu also decided to sign HB 215, which will create a study commission that we fear will be one-sided. However, we understand the governor’s reluctance to veto a study commission, so we are not going to be too critical of his decision.

The decriminalization victory would not have been possible without the hard work of our many dedicated allies. In particular, we’d like to thank attorney Paul Twomey, the ACLU-NH, the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, and HB 640 sponsor Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton) for their tireless efforts in support of sensible marijuana policy reforms.

The post New Hampshire Governor Signs Decriminalization Bill appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Texas Special Legislative Session Begins, Med. Marijuana Bill Introduced

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 14:09

Texas legislators are back in Austin for another round of policy considerations, and Rep. Eddie Lucio III has introduced HB 85, a medical cannabis improvement bill. This proposal would allow some patients to access whole plant cannabis, including those with terminal cancer, multiple sclerosis, autism, or Parkinson’s Disease.

This bill is more restrictive than the bill introduced during the regular session, but it would still be a major step forward for many seriously ill patients. Currently, the Compassionate Use Program only allows those with intractable epilepsy access to low-THC cannabis. Texas cannabis businesses are expected to be operational by the end of the year.

This will be a very politically charged special session, established to address a specific list of issues that Gov. Greg Abbott and other Texas conservatives consider priorities.

The post Texas Special Legislative Session Begins, Med. Marijuana Bill Introduced appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Massachusetts Lawmakers Reach Compromise on Marijuana Regulation

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 10:34

After weeks of persistent advocacy from Massachusetts residents, the Senate and House have reached a compromise that largely respects the will of the people. The House’s flawed “repeal and replace” bill would have made disastrous changes to the law voters approved, and we are relieved that the Legislature has agreed to a more sensible plan for implementing legalization.

The compromise bill’s most significant changes relate to local control and taxes. The legislation adjusts the local control policy, allowing local government officials in towns that voted “no” on the 2016 ballot initiative to ban marijuana businesses until December 2019. For towns that voted “yes” in 2016, any bans must be placed on a local ballot for voters to approve. The maximum tax rate — which depends on whether towns adopt optional local taxes — will increase from 12% to 20%. Under the bill, the state tax will be 17%, and the local option will be 3%.

MPP and our allies successfully led the 2016 campaign to legalize and regulate marijuana in Massachusetts. After our historic victory in November, it was concerning to see some members of the House propose drastic changes to the initiative approved by the voters. But thanks to the work of thousands of dedicated supporters across the Commonwealth, the law approved by voters will remain largely intact.

The bill isn’t perfect, and we preferred the original language of the ballot initiative. However, given how problematic the House bill was, we are satisfied with the final compromise.

We generated over 1,000 calls to state legislators urging them to reject the House’s “repeal and replace” bill. To everyone who made a call, thank you!

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The New York Times Urges Halt to Marijuana Prosecutions

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 11:54

Today, The New York Times published an editorial calling for a halt to all marijuana prosecutions in New York City, following the release of a study showing that racial disparities in arrests persist, despite the recent city efforts to alleviate the problem.

New York City was scaling back its stop-and-frisk program even before a federal judge ruled in 2013 that the tactics underlying it violated the constitutional rights of minority citizens. It’s hard not to look at marijuana arrests today without thinking of that saga. Although the city has reduced the number of arrests for low-level marijuana possession, black and Latino New Yorkers are far more likely to be arrested for smoking in public than whites, who are just as likely to use marijuana.

These arrests have virtually no public safety benefit and can cause lasting damage to people who often have had no other contact with the criminal justice system. Charges are typically dismissed if people stay out of trouble for a year, but in that period, they can be denied jobs, housing and entry into the armed services.

The city needs to do more to minimize arrests. District attorneys can take the lead by refusing to prosecute most, if not all, of these cases.

You can read the full editorial here.

 

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Delaware Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Improvement Bill

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 14:37

On Wednesday, Delaware Gov. John Carney signed SB 24 into law. Now, patients in the First State suffering from PTSD will no longer need to visit a psychiatrist in order to obtain a certification for medical cannabis. They can instead get their certifications signed by any physician. The change to the program takes effect immediately.

The bill — known as the Bravery Bill — was sponsored by Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, who is also sponsoring Delaware’s adult use cannabis bill, HB 110. An earlier version of SB 24 would have also added anxiety disorders to the program, but that language was removed from the final bill.

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West Virginia Medical Marijuana Bill Takes Effect, but No Access for Most Patients Until 2019

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 10:16

The West Virginia medical cannabis bill officially took effect on Wednesday. Unfortunately, however, most or all patients will not be able to benefit from the law until July 1, 2019, unless something changes.

The law would allow the regulatory agency to make agreements with other states to allow terminally ill cancer patients to buy medical cannabis in another state, but it is not clear yet if that will happen.

For details on how the law will work, including who can qualify for the program, check out our summary.

On a positive note, the members of the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board were announced last week, and the first meetings are expected to be scheduled soon. The Advisory Board is important because it will provide an opportunity to discuss improvements to the policy.

The post West Virginia Medical Marijuana Bill Takes Effect, but No Access for Most Patients Until 2019 appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Minnesota Accepting Petitions to Add Qualifying Conditions

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 10:12

The Minnesota medical cannabis program is now accepting petitions to add qualifying conditions. Once again, MPP is teaming up with local advocate group Sensible Minnesota to petition to expand the program.

Post-traumatic stress disorder — which was added as a result of last year’s petition process — qualifies starting on Aug. 1, and the year before we were successful in efforts to add intractable pain. This year we are looking at adding several new conditions. They are: nausea, autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, liver disease, and chronic pain.

If you suffer from one of these conditions, are the guardian of someone who does, or if you are a health care professional who treats one of these conditions, we want to hear from you! Please fill out this form to let us know who you are, what condition is relevant to you, and to share your story. Sensible Minnesota or MPP Foundation will be submitting letters of support along with the petitions.

The post Minnesota Accepting Petitions to Add Qualifying Conditions appeared first on MPP Blog.

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Arkansas Medical Marijuana Applications Now Open for Patients and Caregivers

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 10:07

Patients and caregivers can begin enrolling in Arkansas’ medical marijuana program now, although cards will not be available for some time.

If you are a qualifying patient, you can go to the Arkansas Department of Health website and enroll online, or you can mail in your application. Patients must submit a written certification form filled out by a physician, a photocopy of their Arkansas state-issued ID, and a nonrefundable $50 application fee. Caregivers must also undergo a $34 criminal history check. Note that due to an amendment to the program by the Legislature, members of the Arkansas National Guard and the U.S. military are not permitted to enroll in the program as either patients or caregivers.

While patients can apply for program enrollment now, their ID cards will not be issued until 30 days before medical cannabis actually becomes available from dispensaries for purchase. The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission estimates that dispensaries should be open by the end of the year or early 2018. You can learn more about the dispensary application process here.

For more information on the state’s program, please check out MPP’s full summary of the law. You can also access the Department of Health’s super-helpful FAQ here.

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Delaware Legislature Enacts Cannabis Regulation Task Force

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 09:56

Early Saturday morning, as the 2017 Legislative session came to a close, the Delaware General Assembly passed a resolution establishing a task force to discuss how to tax and regulate cannabis in the First State. While we’d hoped to end marijuana prohibition outright this year in Delaware, this is an important step forward.

The task force will be composed of agency heads, lawmakers, advocates, and other stakeholders. Sen. Margaret Rose Henry and Rep. Helene Keeley, sponsors of the Delaware Marijuana Control Act, will co-chair the committee.

This task force is good news for Delawareans who have worked tirelessly for years on this issue, and success is closer than ever. This fall, policymakers will take a serious look at what a post-prohibition Delaware will look like. The task force will issue a report to the Legislature in January 2018. This leaves plenty of time for lawmakers to vote on replacing marijuana prohibition with sensible regulation.

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