Pages tagged "maryland"


NH set to become the next medical cannabis state, while MD considers yet another symbolic bill

Yesterday, the New Hampshire House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed House Bill 573, by a voted of 286-64. The bill is expected to pass the Senate, which approved similar legislation last year. In fact, the year's bill will provide patients with greater access options, as they will be able to purchase medical cannabis from a state-regulated dispensary in addition to being able to cultivate their own medicine in an enclosed, locked facility. While last year's bill was vetoed by the previous governor (the veto fell just 2 shorts shy of being overridden),  it is expected that it will again pass the senate followed this time with the signature of newly elected Governor Maggie Hassan.

ASA worked with NH state Representative Donald "Ted" Wright to help with language as the bill made its way through the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee, and commends the work of the committee and each of the legislators that voted in favor of the bill that will create true safe access in New Hampshire. Although the bill failed to included protections against housing, employment or education discrimination, HB 573 is a very patient friendly bill, and will provide access to patients living with any of a number of debilitating conditions. Unfortunately, the same can not be said about legislation that is about to pass the Maryland General Assembly.

Late on Wednesday, it was announced that both the Maryland House Health and Government Affairs and Judiciary Committees approved HB 1101, a bill that would in theory create an access model where patients would obtain medicine from hospitals that are approved to conduct research on human subjects.  Earlier this month, Maryland was considering a true safe access, HB 302, which would have been created access through dispensaries and cultivation while providing patients with the strongest privacy protections in the nation. Instead, this system can only be described as a symbolic bill because even the state's own Department of Legislative Services (DLS) analysis said the likelihood that any facility is approximately "nonexistent." In fact, the state's analysis noted that;

"Both the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) and the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) previously advised (with regards to a similar bill introduced in the 2012 legislative session) that they did not intend to participate in the program as academic medical centers. JHU and UMMS have confirmed that their intentions have not changed. It is unclear how many, if any, other institutions are eligible (and willing) to participate as
academic medical centers under the bill."

In other words, the state has no idea (or confidence for that matter) that there is a single facility in the state that will provide medical cannabis to patients with a qualifying condition. Even less friendly for patients is the fact physicians will not be able to write recommendations for conditions for which they have not been pre-approved to recommend. In fact, there is not a single debilitating medical condition that a patient in Maryland would be guaranteed access for under this law, bad news for Marylanders with rare conditions.

Worse still, this completely unproven approach is anticipated to be a financial quagmire for the state.  The DLS analysis further states that,

"Because participation in the program is expected to be low (or nonexistent)...DLS advises that the commission is not likely to be able to comply with the bill’s requirement to set its fees at a level sufficient to offset program costs (notwithstanding that some costs, including those associated with the required database, are the responsibility of DHMH rather than the commission) unless it sets its fees at a level that would likely be prohibitively high."

In other words, if by some miracle, some eligible facility stepped forward to become a provider of medical cannabis, the state would be hemorrhaging money on the program. Regardless of whether a facility stepped forward, the state would still bear the expense of promulgating unimplementable regulations. Bottom line, Maryland is about to pass the expensive symbolic medical cannabis law in history.

So there you have it. Neither Maryland nor New Hampshire are set to pass perfect medical cannabis bills in 2013, but the difference between them is night versus day. Or should I say, sickness vs. wellness.

Another Small Step: Protecting Patients from Arrest in Maryland

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Patients Not Criminals!

While the Maryland medical cannabis community entered the 2012 legislative session with high hopes because of three bills in the house proposing medical cannabis access points, the Governor O'Malley has come out in opposition of any bill naming any state agency as a regulatory body for the program fearing threats of federal prosecution of Maryland state employees.  While the cannabis community was hoping for O'Malley to champion this issue much like many of the brave Maryland state legislators, he too is joining governors across the country who are falling for the latest federal scare tactic.  While public officials across the country have received threat letters regarding medical cannabis, not one person has been prosecuted for the implementation of state sanctioned medical cannabis programs despite their receipt of threat letters indicating otherwise.



At a press conference last night in Annapolis, legislators and patients spoke out for the need of a bill like Delegate Glenn's House Bill 15, a proposed piece of legislation that focuses on best practices of medical cannabis states across the country.  HB15 is the only bill that would ensure safe access to cannabis via patient cultivation.

Rather than hoping for a law providing comprehensive protections and access for patients, Maryland is considering it's next best step is to provide patients with some of the protections they deserve.  MD-ASA, affiliates and concerned citizens are working with legislators amend HB 15 and SB995 to not only provide patients who possess a tamper-proof doctor's certification with protections from arrest and other civil protections, caregivers will also be awarded opportunities to use the affirmative defense in a court of law.  This move would still provide patients and caregivers with protection and advancing Maryland one step closer to providing safe access to qualifying patients in Maryland while removing the state as a central regulatory body for now so that patients can avoid unnecessary arrest and costly prosecution until next year, when hopefully the federal government will uphold state's rights to create and implement it's own medical cannabis law.  While this move may appear small on paper, it is a monumental move in the right direction for patients and caregivers.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 20, SB995 will be considered in front of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee at 1:00pm.  Americans for Safe Access is calling upon the medical cannabis community and it's s supporters to encourage the legislature to pass the amended version of SB995/HB15, and also encourage the governor to allow the bill to become law. For information on how to testify, email Kristen@safeaccessnow.org

Links:
To read more about yesterday's press conference click here.
To access ASA's Action Alert click here.

 

 

Urge Governors to Stand Up for Patient Rights

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In the past few months, United States Attorneys General in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island, and Vermont  have issued letters threatening federal action against any entity, including state employees, participating in state sanctioned medical cannabis programs.  While our community has seen these types of letters under previous administrations, it is disappointing to see President Obama sanction this behavior.



While many promises have been made by Obama to end raids on the medical cannabis community, these DOJ threat letters are yet another tactic of the federal government to interfere with patients’ right to safe access.  ASA recently issued Obama’s Medical Cannabis Report Card, showing he has failed at improving conditions for our community.  These threat letters are further evidence of the broken promises of the current administration and proof  that our community is under attack. 

Over the next couple of weeks, our community must call upon our state representatives for leadership.  We must urge our governors, whether they have received a threat letter or not, to join Americans for Safe Access in a push back against the U.S. Attorneys who have issued these threat letters against our community. 

In order to make this campaign a success, your governors needs to hear from you.  As a constituent, ask for his or her leadership against federal interference.  Call your governor today and use the following script.  Please find contact information for your governor below.  The District of Columbia should reach out to Mayor Gray whose number is listed below, and also included in the electronic action alert. 

Governor (or Mayor for DC Residents)—

As a concerned medical cannabis community member and your constituent, I am worried about the impact these threat letters from the Department of Justice and the potential for federal interference will have on safe access to medical cannabis in my state.  Letters have been issued to eight states so far, and we need to send a message asserting our state’s right to safe access. We need you the lead the charge to end federal interference and work toward creating policies that will resolve the federal conflict once and for all.

Thank you.


You may also participate in our online action alert by clicking here to ask your governor and congressional leaders to take a stand for safe access.

REPRESENTATIVE CONTACT INFORMATION

ALASKA
Governor Sean Parnell
Tel: (907) 465-3500

ARIZONA
Governor Jan Brewer
Tel:(602)542-4331

CALIFORNIA
Governor Jerry Brown
Tel:(916)445-2841

COLORADO
Governor John Hickenlooper
Tel:(303)866-2471

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Mayor Vincent Gray
Tel:(202)727-2980

DELAWARE
Governor Jack Markell
Tel:(302)577-3210

HAWAII
Governor Neil Abercrombie
Tel:(808)586-0034

MAINE
Governor Paul LePage
Tel:(207)287-3531

MARYLAND
Governor Marin O'Malley
Tel:(410) 974-3901

MICHIGAN
Governor Rick Snyder
Tel:(517)373-7858

MONTANA
Governor Brian Schweitzer
Tel:(406)444-3111

Maryland Legislator Fights for Patients’ Right to Cultivate

Aimed at establishing the right for patients to reliably and affordably obtain medical marijuana, Maryland House Deputy Majority Whip Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore) introduced an amendment today to a proposed bill to ensure that patients have the right to cultivate their own medicine. House Bill 291 would protect patients from arrest and prosecution, and set up a state-run production and distribution system, but it fails to provide alternatives like self-cultivation for patients who don’t live near a distribution center or who cannot afford the high prices seen at facilities in other states. Before introducing her amendment to HB 291, Delegate Glenn said:
I’ve had two loved ones succumb to the ravages of cancer -- my mother passed away in June and my brother-in-law passed away 6 years ago. Both of them got to the point where they couldn’t eat and their doctors wished they could recommend medical marijuana to stimulate their appetite. I also know what it’s like to live in poverty and to not be able to afford desperately needed medicine. People should not be denied access to medical marijuana because they cannot afford it or because they cannot travel to locations where it's dispensed. Of course we should control it and regulate it, but we should not shut out people who need it.
Patient cultivation is currently a right of hundreds of thousands of patients in 14 of the country’s 15 medical marijuana states. New Jersey is the only state to deny its patients the right to cultivate. Now, more than a year after the bill was passed, New Jersey has not registered a single patient, nor has it licensed a single producer or distributor. Subsequently, no patient is able to obtain medical marijuana legally in New Jersey. The Maryland Health and Government Operations Committee and the Judiciary Committee will hear HB 291 at 1pm on Monday, February 28th. Delegate Glenn's amendment will be heard by committee members at that time, as will testimony from patients, doctors and other experts. In preparation for the hearing, Americans for Safe Access issued a brief report on the importance and necessity of patient cultivation. The report points legislators to certain needs that would go unmet if patients were prevented from cultivating, such as affordability, reliability, consistency and quality. For additional information, see ASA’s press release.

Building a Movement in Maryland

Tony Bowles was a plaintiff in ASA’s successful lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol. He has taken action time and time again on behalf of patients in need of medical marijuana. He now lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he is working hard to help improve Maryland’s medical marijuana law. Tony can be reached at tonebowles@sbcglobal.net Last week, ASA, in partnership with the Drug Policy Alliance, kicked off our Patients for Access campaign in Maryland, which I first wrote about here in January. The campaign is designed to build grassroots support and identify potential leadership to support future legislative reform efforts. More than a dozen people came out for our first Medical Marijuana Teach-In and Know Your Rights Training. I think we gave an astounding presentation and I was pleased to see many familiar and new faces. The crowd was incredibly diverse and the feedback portion of the training indicated that they sincerely appreciated the information and the training. "Dynamic", "Necessary", "Informative", and "Enraging" were just a few of the descriptions used during an oral evaluation. Little is known by the public about the state’s medical marijuana law and a few attendees were not even aware that Maryland has a medical marijuana law. We believe our first training raised awareness and provided a foundation to build on. Everyone at the training signed our petition to protect Maryland medical marijuana patients and many also signed up to participate in a field trip to meet friendly state legislators next Month in Annapolis. A few took the information, sign-up sheets, and membership forms to get their friends and family involved. We were fortunate to be hosted at a really great space in Baltimore's Charles Village inside an old Methodist Church which now serves as a noncommercial, cooperatively managed space for radical politics and grassroots culture -- a project sponsored by a local co-op, 2640. We are conducting similar teach-ins throughout the month of March. This week we host trainings in Salisbury, Maryland (Eastern Shore) and Silver Spring, MD (Montgomery County). Our final training occurs in Western Maryland on the March 25th. For more information and to keep updated about our continued efforts to improve Maryland’s medical marijuana law see: http://www.drugpolicy.org/statebystate/maryland/ http://www.americansforsafeaccess.org/maryland

Maryland Grassroots Medical Marijuana Campaign Kicks Off

Tony Bowles was a plaintiff in ASA's successful lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol. He has taken action time and time again on behalf of patients in need of medical marijuana. He now lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he is working hard to help improve Maryland's medical marijuana law. Tony can be reached at tonebowles@sbcglobal.net Last year’s attempt to introduce HB 1040, The Maryland Compassionate Use Act, which would have replaced the current law with comprehensive language concerning cultivation, identification cards, confidentiality issues, fees, transportation, and possession, was blocked by Chair of the Judiciary, Joseph Vallario. The very same lawmaker who gutted the 2003 legislation. Despite the fact that we had more than enough support in the Judiciary Committee to pass the new law with improvements, Chairman Vallario wouldn’t put the improved legislation up for vote. Why? Because he’s still worried that letting qualified individuals suffering from severe or chronic illness use medical marijuana will bring the wrath of the Federal Government down on Maryland. He even said way back in 2002 "I am not going to have a part in something that is in violation of federal law." This year we’re taking a new approach in Maryland to help tackle this problem. I am working with ASA and the Drug Policy Alliance to build up grassroots support to compliment our next legislative efforts. We’ll be focusing on recruitment, training, and developing strong, vocal and representative leadership that will be crucial for helping policymakers move far-reaching legislation aimed at establishing full legal protections for Maryland’s most vulnerable citizens and the people who care for them. Between now and early spring we will hold several regional teach-ins and know your rights trainings. These forums will provide an opportunity to introduce patients, their care providers and other grassroots supporters to each other, briefly recap previous efforts to improve the law, and explain the strategy and tactics while covering all of the basic legal information for interactions with law enforcement. We are hoping to bring interested medical marijuana supporters to Annapolis for a tour of the Capital where they can take advantage of the activity of the legislative session, meet their state lawmakers, deepen their understanding of the legislative process, and raise enthusiasm around working on a legislative campaign in the future. Maryland’s existing medical marijuana law, “The Darrell Putman Compassionate Use Act” does not go far enough; it slaps patients with a criminal conviction even if they successfully offer a medical necessity defense in court. This means that even a successful defense results in a permanent criminal record, which poses barriers to financial aid, housing, employment, and more. Maryland’s medical marijuana law is the only state medical marijuana law that does not shield patients from arrest! We need real compassion and honest protection now!