Blog Voices from the Frontlines
Medical cannabis patients and other stakeholders in California scored victories and suffered defeats in the state legislature today. The Appropriations Committees in the Assembly and Senate decided the fate of hundreds of bills today in their biannual “suspense hearings” – including important bills related to medical cannabis licensing, taxation, and patients’ rights.
The committee votes come just four days after more than one hundred and fifty medical cannabis patients and caregivers gathered in Sacramento to talk face-to-face with lawmakers and staff about medical cannabis bills. Participants in the California Citizen Lobby Day took more than 200 meetings with lawmakers and staff – including members who cast votes in today’s suspense hearings.
Ohio Set to Become 26th Medical Cannabis State, but Employment Language Raises Concerns - Americans for Safe Access
The Ohio Senate passed HB 523 on Wednesday by a vote of 18-15, which would create a retail dispensary medical cannabis program in state.The bill is expected to be signed by Governor John Kasich, which would make Ohio the 26th medical cannabis state in the country.
While the program that will be created under HB 523 is no doubt a step forward for patients in Ohio, the are still major concerns with the program. To give the legislature credit, the senate wisely amended the bill to remove potentially disastrous requirements on physicians and added commission appointments for representatives from the caregivers, nurses, and agriculture. Another reason to celebrate the bill’s passes is that the regulatory process will begin sooner. Given the delays that most state programs have encountered when issuing dispensary and cultivation licenses, the earlier state on regulations will certainly benefit patients. However, there are several areas of the bill that impose unnecessary and harmful burdens upon patients.
US House Approves Amendment to Create Access for Veterans to Medical Cannabis - Americans for Safe Access
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve the Veterans Equal Access Amendment (VEAA) to the FY2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilConVA) Appropriations bill, which sets the budget for the Veterans Administration (VA). The amendment, which creates a path to medical cannabis therapy for veterans receiving their healthcare through the VA, was approved by a vote of 233-189 with 57 Republicans and 176 Democrats. The amendment was sponsored again by Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) with bipartisan co-sponsorship from Representatives Heck (R-NV), Farr (D-CA), Rohrabacher (R-CA), Reed (R-NY), Titus (D-CA), Lee (D-CA), Gallego (D-AZ), and Polis (D-CA).
Take Action! Tell your Representatives to Protect Veterans & Vote Yes on the Veterans Equal Access Amendment - Americans for Safe Access
Tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the Veterans Equal Access Amendment as part of the full committee markup of the MilCon-VA Appropriations Bill. The amendment will be Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and a bipartisan group of cosponsors. It would allow V.A. physicians to make written recommendations to veteran patients in states with medical cannabis programs. Current V.A. policy forbids their physicians from recommending or even discussing the benefits of medical cannabis.
The policy is set by VHA Directive 2011-004. This directive was set to expire on January 31, 2016; however, the policy remains in effect. This means that Congress must take action to fix the problem. The Veterans Equal Access Amendment would help lift this “gag order” that is currently being imposed on VHA physicians. Like the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment that protect state medical cannabis programs, this amendment would have to be renewed on an annual basis.
There are only 7 days left until the California Citizen Lobby Day. Get registered today so that we can make appointments for you at you Assembly and Senate offices!
Get all the news, events, action alerts, & more...
State Department Confirms Breaking Up NIDA-Monopoly Does Not Violate UN Treaty - Americans for Safe Access
In response to questions from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) office, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement at the State Department has gone on record that the U.S. could issue multiple licenses for the cultivation of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes without violating the U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. This interpretation is at odds with Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) interpretation that the treaty only allows a single license, which is granted to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) creating the “NIDA-monopoly on cannabis,”which has stalled medical cannabis research for years.
According, to NIH:
Under the 1961 international Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (amended in 1972), cannabis is designated a Schedule I substance, and participating countries are required to restrict production, manufacture, possession and distribution of marijuana except for medical and scientific purposes. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulates the cultivation of marijuana for research purposes through licensing requirements and establishing annual aggregate production quotas under the authority of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which implements the Single Convention. To date, the DEA has only issued a single license for the cultivation of marijuana for research, to the University of Mississippi, which is funded through a NIDA contract. Questions on the authority to issue additional licenses would have to be addressed to the DEA.
ASA’s California Weekly Roundup is your way to stay on top of medical cannabis news, events, action alerts, court support, and more.
ALERT: LIVE TONIGHT at 8:00 PM – “Medicine for Real: Taxation”
There are only 14 days left until the California Citizen Lobby Day. Get registered today so that we can make appointments for you at you Assembly and Senate offices!
Get all the news, events, action alerts, & more...
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is hosting our annual California Citizen Lobby Day on Monday, May 23rd, in Sacramento. This is your chance to talk face-to-face with lawmakers and staff about medical cannabis issues that affect you and your loved ones –
- Discrimination in employment, housing, access to health care, and more
- Bills that will turn legal patients into criminals for driving, even if they are not impaired
- Excessive taxation on medical cannabis use and cultivation – including an additional 15% tax on medicine
- Proposed changes to the state’s new commercial licensing program
If medical cannabis is important to you, register today for the California Citizen Lobby Day on May 23rd. ASA will make appointments for you at your Assembly and Senate offices when you sign up.
Why does it matter? I am going to be talking a lot more about that in a live Google Hangout entitled “Medicine for Real” at 8:00 PM PT on Monday, May 9. Log into Google+ a little before 8:00 PM on Monday to join the interactive broadcast, or watch live on YouTube.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has dropped its civil forfeiture action against Harborside Health Center in Oakland, CA. The case was brought by the DOJ back in 2011 as part of a federal crackdown against legal state medical cannabis dispensaries. The dropping of the case was at least in part the result of a Congressional amendment which prevents the DOJ from interfering with those abiding by their state medical cannabis law. This marks the second time in recent weeks that the feds have dropped a case as a result of the Congressional amendment.
In April, the DOJ dropped their appeal against the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM). In that case, Judge Charles Breyer ruled in October, 2015 that the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which Congress first approved in 2014, prevented the feds from proceeding unless they could demonstrate there was a violation of state law. Without any evidence of the state law violation (and also not wanting to risk losing a precedent setting case), the feds ultimately dropped their appeal of the October ruling.
In case you missed it, there was a flurry of notable medical cannabis stories at the state level in the past several days. Below is a recap and brief analysis of medical cannabis news from Connecticut, New Hampshire, Hawaii, and North Carolina.
Connecticut Legislature Approves Pediatric Access to Medical Cannabis
On Saturday, the Connecticut Senate passed a bill that will allow patients under the age of 18 to have access to medical cannabis products. The bill, HB 5450, will allow pediatric patients to have access to medical cannabis edibles and extracts. Minors must have a recommendation from two physicians (one primary care and one specialist) and they will not be able to smoke or vaporize their medicine.
The bill also authorizes the CT Department of Consumer Protection to regulate laboratory testing of medicine and approve research studies. Opponents of the state's medical cannabis program attempted to add amendments that would have removed qualifying conditions and imposed criminal penalties for minor program violations. Thankfully, these amendments were defeated.
Connecticut is currently the last state medical cannabis program that outlaws pediatric access. Governor Dan Malloy is expected to sign the bill.