By Lisa Rough
What’s up this week: On the medical front, Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas are considering expanding their limited programs, while New Hampshire’s still working to launch a medical cannabis program of its own. As far as full legalization goes, Arizona faces an uphill battle against reluctant lawmakers, Maine’s dual organizing efforts have joined forces, and a Kentucky senator is hoping legalization could help curb an epidemic of opiate-related deaths. Internationally, a Polish rapper-turned-politician has introduced a bill for medical marijuana. And based on the polling numbers, it may actually have a chance.
U.S. Cannabis News
Carly’s Law, passed in 2014, created a pilot CBD-only program run by the University of Alabama, with the school distributing cannabidiol oil to patients who suffer from seizure disorders. It didn’t quite work out. The Youngs, a family that campaigned strongly for the law, discovered their daughter, Leni, didn’t qualify for the pilot program. So Amy Young packed up and took Leni to Oregon for treatment. After Leni began receiving regular doses of cannabis oil, her situation improved immensely — her seizure frequency dropped from dozens daily to fewer than one a month. Alabama Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, who was instrumental in passing Carly’s Law, has taken it upon himself to draft what is now known as Leni’s Law in order to expand access for so-called medical refugee patients who leave their home states to seek treatment where cannabis is legal.
Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Fountain Hills, introduced House Concurrent Resolution 2019, which would amend Arizona’s medical marijuana regulations to make the program more restrictive. The measure would prevent naturopathic and homeopathic doctors from recommending medical cannabis and would require patients to renew their status (and pay subsequent renewal fees) every six months instead of every year, as is currently required. The resolution drew protests from patients across the state and highlighted a deep divide in Arizona: Even as campaign organizers collect signatures in favor of expanding legalization to include recreational use, Arizona lawmakers continue to take steps in the direction of prohibition.
There are seven cannabis-related bills on the state Legislature’s docket this session, but one in particular stands out. House Bill 722, sponsored by Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, would expand the Haleigh’s Hope Act that was signed into law last year. The current law allows patients who suffer from qualifying conditions to legally possess cannabis oil, but it offers no legal avenue for patients to obtain medicine. HB 722 aims to expand the law to include more qualifying conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, intractable pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill would set up an infrastructure similar to Minnesota’s for the manufacture and distribution of medicine. For more, check out our interview with Peake on the future of cannabis in Georgia.
Last week’s Boise State University town hall meeting to discuss cannabis legalization was eventful, even if it was missing a few key players. Idaho Office of Drug Policy Director Elisha Figueroa canceled her appearance the day of the event, as did representatives from the Idaho State Police, offering no explanation for their absences. The remaining speakers included Oregon anti-prohibition advocate Inge Fryklund, cannabis radio personality Russ Bellville, and BSU criminal justice professor Cody Jorgenson. Idaho voters interested in legalization efforts can find the petition for Idaho’s New Approach to Cannabis citizen’s initiative here. The campaign needs to collect 47,623 signatures by April 30 in order to qualify for the November ballot.
The Senate Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee last week approved a bill that would reduce penalties for cannabis possession and allow very limited use of cannabis for medical reasons. The measure now heads to the full Senate floor. It would reduce the first penalty for possession from one year in jail and a $2,500 fine to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The bill also includes a stipulation that the second possession offense would no longer be a felony. It would allow individuals with severe epilepsy or seizure disorders to possess and use CBD oil derived from hemp, and would set up a medical research program to study the clinical benefits of hemp and hemp-derived products.
Sen. Perry B. Clark, D-Louisville, introduced the Cannabis Freedom Act. The bill would completely repeal Kentucky’s longstanding prohibition of cannabis and create a regulatory framework “designed to promote public safety and responsible” adult cannabis consumption. Clark says he’s concerned about the number of opiate-related deaths in Kentucky, which have grown at an alarming rate. “I don’t personally care about using cannabis. I just know that these laws are outdated and negatively affecting our state, our citizens, and it’s ridiculous,” Clark told LEO Weekly. “What we’re doing right now to combat this problem isn’t working, but you can see in places where they implement medicinal marijuana and decriminalization laws, that there is a reduction in prescription and opiate overdose deaths, and those amazing numbers are lives being saved.” The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to consider the bill on Feb. 3.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol announced it’s collected 103,115 signatures, far surpassing the 61,123 signatures needed to qualify its legalization initiative for the November ballot. Although there were initially two legalization efforts, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and Legalize Maine, the groups have joined forces in a push to legalize. It’s not the first time Maine has been in the spotlight for legalization: In 2013 the city of Portland voted to legalize cannabis for adult use (though the vote was later overturned by authorities). Could it be time for the entire state to follow suit?
In 2013 Gov. Maggie Hassan signed legislation to create New Hampshire’s Therapeutic Cannabis Program, but patients have faced a long and arduous wait for the program to become operational. New Hampshire cancer patient Linda Horan sued the state in November to obtain her patient registry card, and the court ruled in her favor. The state issued her a patient card in order to visit a Maine dispensary, as New Hampshire’s first licensed dispensary, Alternative TLC, isn’t slated to open until March 2016. In the meantime, advocates are also hoping to expand the qualifying medical conditions to include post-traumatic stress disorder and combat the Granite State’s ongoing battle against opioid addiction. State lawmakers are also considering a bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to half an ounce of cannabis, reducing the penalties to a civil fine of $100.
Sadly, Ms. Horan passed away earlier this week from her battle with stage 4 lung cancer.
International Cannabis News
Polish member of parliament Piotr Liroy-Marzec, who dominated the airwaves in the 1990s as a rapper called Liroy, has introduced a draft bill to legalize medical marijuana. In July, an independent survey from the PBS agency found 68 percent of Poles favor legalization for medicinal purposes. The same proportion, 68 percent, said that denying access to cannabis is “cruel” and violates patients’ rights to healthcare.
Image Sources (cropped, logos removed): Wojewódzki Ośrodek Animacji Kultury w Toruniu via Flickr Creative Commons
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