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Last night, residents of Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Montana voted on ballot initiatives to legalize the medical use of cannabis. All four of the measures passed making a total of 29 states with medical cannabis laws now in effect. Five additional states - California, Massachusetts, Maine, Arizona and Nevada voted on ballot initiatives that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana. These initiatives were also successful, except for Arizona.
Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research, issued the following statement reacting to the ballot measures and the future of medical cannabis in the United States:
“Last night was a historic victory for the movement to legalize medical cannabis and provide safe, legal access for patients who are in critical need of medical cannabis for therapeutic uses. Under President-Elect Donald Trump, who supports medicinal cannabis, the drug may be rescheduled from its current status as a Schedule 1 substance to perhaps Schedule 2 or lower. With newly successful ballot measures, voters in four states - Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Montana - now bring the total number of states that guarantee safe legal access to medical cannabis to 29. Time and again across the country, voters have overwhelmingly declared that the criminalization of medical cannabis is an antiquated and arbitrary restriction that unfairly punishes sick people and undermines American values.
“Now that voters in Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Montana have approved medical cannabis programs, regulators in those States must swiftly implement programs that guarantee safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic purposes. This means developing clear and transparent regulations that guarantee safe and reliable access to cannabis at all elements of the supply chain, including growing, manufacturing, testing and retailing. This also means educating doctors and medical professionals on best practices that effectively meet patient needs.
“The passage of Amendment 2 in Florida is historic, as it marks the first time that a state has evolved from a limited CBD-focused program to a comprehensive medical state. This new amendment means more patients will qualify for medical cannabis use and that more cultivators, dispensaries, and patients will have access to a superior range of medical cannabis products to treat their conditions.
“With Arkansas joining Florida as the 27th and 28th medical cannabis states, 2016 marks the year the comprehensive medical cannabis programs were established in the South. The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (Issue 6) will bring a regulated system of cultivators and dispensaries to provide access to patients in the state.
“The passage of North Dakota Medical Marijuana Legalization (Measure 5) was perhaps the biggest surprise for patient advocates in 2016. The grassroots initiative received little national funding or attention, yet managed to pull off an impressive victory to become the 29th state with a comprehensive medical cannabis program.
“The victory Initiative 182 in Montana means a restoration of the state medical cannabis program that was nearly evaporated after a state court lifted the injunction that had prevented parts of a 2011 bill that nearly repealed the entire program. The I-182 win means that patients will once again have access to medical cannabis products through regulated retail dispensaries and expand the qualifying conditions list.
“With more than 29 states in support of laws that legalize cannabis for medical use, it’s up to the Federal Government to follow the lead of States and end the prohibition on medical cannabis by ensuring that all Americans who need this drug have reliable access.
“Additionally, the passage of California’s Proposition 64, a recreational cannabis measure, will help enshrine some additional protections for patients in the areas of taxation, parental custody rights, indoor home cultivation, and privacy rights. But as the states move forward with implementing the adult use programs, they must be careful to preserve their medical programs and resist the temptation to merge the medical and adult-use programs. While most of the 2016 adult-use ballot measures contain provision to preserve their state’s medical program, patients must be vigilant to ensure that state officials preserve the independence of both programs.
“As we head into 2017, ASA’s national unity conference will bring activists together in Washington, DC in April to build on the successes we’ve had in 29 states,” concluded Sherer.
Contact: Anna Zuccaro | [email protected] | 914-523-9145