New York: Legislation Introduced To Expand Patients’ Medical Marijuana Access

Update: The 2017 legislative session came to a close with lawmakers taking no further action A 8598.
Update: On July 10, A. 8598 was referred to committee.
Legislation is pending in the Assembly, A. 8598, to expand the pool of patients eligible for medical cannabis therapy.

The measure eliminates the state’s limiting list of qualifying conditions. Rather, it leaves the decision of whether to recommend medical cannabis entirely up to the discretion of each individual physician. 

It states, “[M]edical marihuana may be used for a condition, or symptom or complication of the condition or its treatment, for which, in the practitioner’s professional opinion and review of past treatments, the patient is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from primary or adjunctive treatment.”

Physicians already possess similar discretion when it comes to prescribing pharmaceutical drugs that pose far greater health risks than cannabis. Politicians should not be arbitrarily interfering in this doctor/patient relationship.

Please enter your e-mail below to urge lawmakers to support A. 8598.

National: Tell AAA To Stop Lying About Legalization

Over the first six months of 2017, the American Automobile Association (aka AAA) has been spreading misinformation and propaganda in a lobbying effort to defeat marijuana legalization legislative efforts in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and other states.

As reported by Leafly.com, AAA representatives have recently preyed upon unsubstantiated fears regarding the alleged “increased plague of drugged driving” and the claim that “more babies will be born high” on marijuana in their lobbying efforts against adult use regulatory reforms. The distortions do nothing to advance the public debate surrounding legalization, but they do tarnish the organization’s reputation.  

According to federal data, auto accident fatalities have fallen significantly over the past two decades – during the same time that a majority of US states have legalized marijuana for either medical or social use. In 1996 when California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that there were an estimated 37,500 fatal car crashes on US roadways. This total fell to under 30,000 by 2014.

Further, a recently published study in the American Journal of Public Health reports that fatal traffic accident rates in legal marijuana states are no different than those in states where cannabis remains illegal. A separate study published last year in the same journal previously reported that the enactment of medical marijuana legalization laws is associated with a reduction in traffic fatalities compared to other states, particularly among younger drivers.

One would hope that AAA would be nonpartisan in this debate; that they would be the group to separate the facts from the myths so that politicians and law enforcement would be more likely to pursue evidence-based policies with regard to regulating marijuana in a manner that strengthens public safety. Instead they’re largely fearmongering and further politicizing the issue — calling for the continued criminalization and arrest of millions of Americans who choose to use marijuana privately and responsibly. By doing so, they are arguing in favor of the failed criminal justice policies of the past and they are alienating the 60 percent of Americans who endorse the outright legalization of recreational cannabis by adults (Gallup, 2016).

There are areas of public policy where AAA is absolutely in agreement with reform advocates, including NORML. For instance, we both agree that driving under the influence of cannabis should be discouraged and legally prohibited, and that the detection of either THC or its metabolites in blood or urine is not indicative of psychomotor impairment and, therefore, should not be used a legal standard of criminal liability.
Our hope is that some day groups like NORML and AAA can work together to advocate for rational policies that work to keep our roadways safe from the threat of impaired drivers. Specifically, we recognize — as does AAA — that there is a need for greater tools and methods  to more accurately determine whether or not someone is under the influence of cannabis, such as via the use and promotion of handheld performance technology.

Tell AAA that the days of ‘reefer madness’ are over. It’s time for a rational and evidence-based discussion regarding how best to regulate the use of marijuana by adults and how to keep our roads safe.

Please fill out the pre-written letter below and urge AAA to rethink their stance on marijuana policy.

Federal: Amendment To Expand Veterans’ Access to Medical Marijuana

Update: Identical language was introduced in the House by Representative Earl Blumenauer and cosponsored by 9 Republicans and 9 Democrats. House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions blocked the amendment from consideration. 
Update: The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 24-7 to include the amendment as part of the 2018 MilCon-VA bill. 
The Veterans Equal Access Amendment, which would expand medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans, is expected to be offered to the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations (MilCon-VA) bill. 

Presently, V.A. doctors are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician.
Last year, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 MilCon-VA bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote. We must not allow a similar outcome again this year. Lawmakers must stop playing politics with veterans’ health and pass and enact this amendment.

Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications to treat conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress. A retrospective review of patients’ symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction on a scale of post-traumatic symptom scores following cannabis therapy. This is why, in recent months, two of the largest veterans’ rights groups — AMVETS and the American Legion —  have resolved in favor of patients’ access to cannabis therapy.

Our veterans deserve the option to legally access a botanical product that is objectively safer than the litany of pharmaceutical drugs it could replace.

Enter your information below to urge your Senators to support the Veterans Equal Access Amendment.

California: Marijuana Regulation Implementation Bill Signed By Governor

Update: On June 27 Senate Bill 94 was approved by the Governor.
Members of the state assembly and senate have passed legislation, Senate Bill 94, regarding the implementation of the Adult Use Marijuana Act and make amendments to the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act.

The legislation imposes various regulatory changes surrounding the licensing of medical and retail facilities.

A summary of some of these changes appears here.

Full text of the bill is here.

Maine: Protections For Medical Cannabis Patients Receiving Organ Transplants Become Law

Update: On June 24 LD 764 became law without the Governor’s signature. 
Legislation (LD 764) is before Gov. Paul LePage that will prohibit medical cannabis patients from being denied organ transplants.

The measure “prohibits a transplant evaluator from determining a qualifying patient to be unsuitable to receive an anatomical gift solely because the qualifying patient uses medical marijuana.”

No sound scientific evidence exists showing that medical cannabis patients are at any greater risk for adverse effects during transplant surgery. Patients should not be discriminated against solely because of their medical cannabis status. 

Please send the pre-written letter below and urge the Governor to sign this important legislation.

Federal: Legislation To Protect Medical Marijuana Patients Pending In Senate (CARERS Act)

Update: S. 1374 and HR 2920 were referred to committees
Legislation has been reintroduced in the Senate, The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act of 2017, S. 1374/HR 2920 to strengthen protections for those compliant with their state’s medical marijuana laws and to impose various changes to federal law. 

Passage of CARERS 2017 exempts from federal prosecution those who are engaged in the “production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, laboratory testing, recommending use, or delivery of medical marijuana” in instances where these activities comport with state law. Separate provisions in Act exclude cannabidiol from the federal definition of marijuana, permit VA doctors to authorize medical cannabis access to qualified patients, and remove undue federal barriers to clinical trial research to better assess the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis. 

According to a 2017 Quinnipiac University National poll, 94% of Americans support the use of marijuana by medical patients. 

Enter your information below to send a pre-written letter to your Senators and Representative to support and co-sponsor the bill.

Massachusetts: Lawmakers Reconcile Question 4 Rewrite Bills

Update: Lawmakers reconciled the House and Senate implementation bills on July 16. The reconciled language, H 3818, imposes a new statewide excise tax of 10.75 percent on top of a 6.25 percent sales tax. Cities also have the option to impose an additional 3 percent tax. Medical marijuana sales will not be subject to taxation. The measure limits the ability of local communities to ban retail facilities if a majority of voters approved Question 4, but makes it easier for communities to do so if they previously opposed the initiative. It also expands patients’ access to medicinal cannabis by permitting nurses and physicians’ assistants the ability to recommend cannabis therapy. The measure now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
Update: Lawmakers on Monday, July 10, reconvened reconciliation hearings regarding dueling House and Senate bills to implement Question 4. Please continue to contact your elected officials using the letter below to urge them to reject proposed House changes to the voter-approved law.
Update: H.3776 was amended by the Senate and failed to pass. On June 23rd, a Conference Committee was established to reconcile the differences to change the rules to Question 4. Contact your elected officials now to tell them to implement the law as soon as possible in a manner that respects the outcome of the election. Contact your legislators via email below or click here to find your representatives and give them a call to express your support for the Senate version and opposition to the House bill. 
Update: The House members reintroduced and passed their version of the Question 4 rewrite on June 21, by a vote of 126 to 28. The bill, which NORML opposes, raises taxes of marijuana sales to as much as 28 percent and also gives municipal officials, rather than voters, final say in deciding whether to have retail facilities in their neighborhoods. The House vote sets up a showdown with the Senate, which is deliberating over their own much more modest implementation bill, S.2097 — one that is supported by the Yes on 4 campaign. MassCann/NORML held a “Kill The Bill Rally at the capital on June 21. 
Update: The Senate released their own version of new rules on June 16 which is supported by the Yes On 4 campaign. 
“The House bill repeals the will of the voters–literally,” Jim Borghesani of the Yes on 4 campaign told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens. “They repeal what happened in November of 2016, and replace it with a bill that would be unworkable and that would likely result in significant delays.”
Update: Governor Charlie Baker has expressed skepticism regarding the proposed tax increase.
You have spoken. Are your elected officials listening?
On Election Day, 54 percent of voters decided in favor of Question 4: The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act – permitting adults to legally grow and to possess marijuana for personal use, while also establishing regulations governing commercial cannabis cultivation and capping taxes on retail sales.
Your message could not have been any clearer: It is time to legalize and regulate the adult use of marijuana.

But it has become apparent that some powerful politicians and bureaucrats wish to ignore voters’ will and rewrite history.

Lawmakers have already unduly delayed the implementation of the law. Now they are moving to change the law altogether.
Members of the House have introduced and passed legislation significantly amending The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act. Among proposed changes to the law:
The bill would more than double taxes on retail cannabis sales, from 12 percent to as much as 28 percent;
The bill would strip local control away from municipal voters and unilaterally give local government officials the power to decide whether or not to ban marijuana facilities in their communities;
The bill would restrict the kinds of marijuana edibles products that may be sold and purchased by adults.
Voters knew full well what they were voting for on Election Day. And now it is time for politicians to respect it.

Visit Massachusetts NORML to learn more about what you can do in your state.
Please use the pre-written letter below to demand your lawmakers and Gov. Baker abide by the will of the voters. 

Nevada: Governor Signs Bill Imposing New Marijuana-Related Taxes

Governor Brian Sandoval has signed legislation, Senate Bill 487, imposing new tax rates on marijuana-related business transactions.
The measure imposes an excise tax of 15 percent on wholesale cannabis sales to both medical and recreational facilities. The measure also imposes an additional ten percent retail sales tax on marijuana or marijuana-related products sold at retail (non-medical) facilities. Revenue from sales taxes will be earmarked to the state’s ‘rainy day’ reserve fund.
Full text of the law is here. 
While NORML generally does not oppose the imposition of reasonable taxation rates on retail cannabis sales, the organization opposes taxes on medical cannabis related transactions.

Medical Marijuana as an Alternative to Opioids

Update: On June 13, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said “I’ve talked to Chuck Rosenberg, the administrator of the DEA and we follow the law and the science. And from a legal and scientific perspective, marijuana is an unlawful drug. It’s properly scheduled under Schedule I. And therefore we have this conflict.” The Schedule I classification stipulates that “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” 
Friday, June 16, the Office of National Drug Control Policy held it’s first meeting of President Trump’s “Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.”

The Commission is tasked with making recommendations for improving the Federal response to opioid misuse and abuse.

Best evidence informs us that medical marijuana access is associated with reduced levels of opioid-related abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. For example, a widely publicized study in the esteemed Journal of the American Medical Association, Internal Medicine reports that the enactment of medical marijuana legalization laws is associated with year-over-year reductions in opioid analgesic overdose mortality. Overall, researchers determined, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.” A similar review by investigators at the RAND Corporation determined, “[S]tates permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not.”

Medical cannabis access is also associated with reduced prescription drug spending. Investigators at the University of Georgia assessed the relationship between medical marijuana legalization laws and physicians’ prescribing patterns in 17 states over a three-year period. Specifically, researchers assessed patients’ consumption of and spending on prescription drugs approved under Medicare Part D in nine domains: anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders, and spasticity.

Authors reported that prescription drug use fell significantly in seven of the nine domains assessed. “Ultimately, we estimated that nationally the Medicare program and its enrollees spent around $165.2 million less in 2013 as a result of changed prescribing behaviors induced by … jurisdictions that had legalized medical marijuana,” they concluded. A follow up study by this same team reported this year, “If all states had had a medical marijuana law in 2014, we estimated that total savings for fee-for-service Medicaid could have been $1.01 billion.”

Nonetheless, this administration continues to express skepticism with regard to the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana. It’s time they learn the facts!

Send the pre-written letter below to the ONDCP Commission to educate them to the positive role that cannabis access plays in curtailing opioid abuse. You can also contact the commission at (202) 395-6709.

 

Nevada: Governor Signs Hemp Expansion Law

Governor Brian Sandoval has signed legislation, Senate Bill 396, expanding the state’s hemp law to permit broader commercial cultivation of the crop.

The new law permits regulators to license growers to engage in hemp cultivation and to produce edible products derived from hemp.

Under a 2015 law, hemp could only be produced as part of a university-sponsored pilot program.

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