Blog Voices from the Frontlines
After passing a temporary stopgap budget measure, Congress has funded the Government through September 30, 2017. Included in the Appropriations bill is a provision that prevents the Department of Justice from expending federal funds to prevent the implementation of state medical cannabis programs. The Appropriations bill also includes protections for states with industrial hemp programs
For medical cannabis patients, one of the hardest conversations to have may be with family and friends. After negotiating the hurdles of registering as a patient, finding a physician that will recommend medical cannabis, and finding a dispensary close to home, the last thing many patients may not anticipate is an intense conversation about their new medicine with their loved ones.
If you have seen the news lately, you know that the possibility of a government shutdown is looming. Without any action, government funding ends at midnight on Friday April 28th, meaning that all non-essential government operations and agencies are suspended until a budget is passed. This would NOT include the Department of Justice (DOJ) as it is considered essential.
Thousands will be gathering tomorrow across the country for the March for Science, a march and rally in support of scientific fact trumping science fiction in our government and among our elected officials.
Yesterday, over 100 medical cannabis patient advocates from 32 states descended on Capitol Hill with a mission:
to convince their members of Congress to support medical cannabis legislation like the CARERS Act.
With help from ASA staff, advocates were scheduled for 72 meetings, which they attended armed with the information they had learned attending ASA’s National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference held from the 7th-11th at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington, D.C.
This week began with a significant move of progress, as the state of Maryland finally opened its patient registry for medical cannabis. Although the state legislature passed a medical cannabis program in 2013, delays and setbacks have postponed the implementation by over four years. Those with last names A through L can now register through the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission's website. Patients with last names M through Z will be able to register starting Monday April 17 at 9 AM. Registration will be open for all patients beginning on April 24th.
UPDATE: On April 19, 2017 West Virginia Jim Justice signed SB 386 into law, making West Virginia the 29th state with a comprehensive medical cannabis program. The signing ceremony can be viewed here.
Tennessee patients who need access to medical cannabis will have to continue waiting. Despite the opportunity to pass a bill that would have legalized medical cannabis in Tennessee, lawmakers, particularly in the Senate were apprehensive to move the bill forward. Instead, lawmakers elected to form a task force to determine the path towards legalizing medical cannabis in the State.
Patients should not have to continue to wait for medicine they need.
On Thursday, March 16th, Virginia Governor McAuliffe signed Senate Bill 1027 into law allowing the production and distribution of cannabidiol oil (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) with up to 5% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for patients with intractable epilepsy. Unlike the signing of SB1235 and HB1445 in 2015 (providing an affirmative defense for possession of the oils), which took place in a reporter-packed room surrounded by the children and parents who had lobbied for the bill, the signing of SB1027 went relatively unnoticed by the media. However, it remains a significant move forward in the conservative state.
Despite its promising beginnings, the medical cannabis program in Maryland has suffered since its implementation in 2013. For the past four years, Maryland's medical cannabis program has been subjected to repeated legislative changes, an extensive public debate over establishing a regulatory structure, and a large applicant pool for licenses. Patients are still awaiting access.
It is now possible that these patients may be forced to wait even longer. Several bills have been introduced in the Maryland Senate that could postpone a functioning system for distribution of medical cannabis even longer. For many who are eligible to use medical cannabis, each day without medicine can be both costly and painful.