Minnesota House and Senate lawmakers, along with Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton, agreed late last week to legislation that seeks to provide access to limited preparations of cannabis to qualified patients.
The finalized language represents a compromise between dueling House (House File 1818) and Senate bills (Senate File 1641), both of which had passed their respective chambers. On Friday afternoon, House lawmakers approved the compromised bill by a vote of 89 to 40. Members of the Senate voted 46 to 16 for the amended measure, sending it to the Governor’s desk.
Under the plan, state regulators intend to license two producers of cannabis and up to eight distribution centers. To be eligible to participate in the state’s program, patients need to possess a physician’s recommendation and be diagnosed with one of eight qualifying conditions (cancer/cachexia, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Tourette’s Syndrome, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, seizures — including those characteristic of epilepsy, severe and persistent muscle spasms — including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis, and/or Crohn’s Disease) and/or a terminal illness, and be registered with the state Department of Health.
Unlike other state medical cannabis programs, the Minnesota plan does not permit qualified patients to possess or obtain whole-plant cannabis. Instead, the forthcoming law mandates that state-licensed distribution centers provide oils, pills, and/or extracts prepared from the plant. Such products would be subject to laboratory testing for purity and potency. Patients’ health care provider must compile ongoing reports in regards to their patients’ progress.
Cannabis-based preparations are expected to be available to qualified patients by no later than July 1, 2015. Additional details on the forthcoming program are available here.
Nearly nine out of ten Floridians support legalizing the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, and a majority support allowing adults to possess the plant for any purpose, according to the results of a statewide Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters.
Fifty-three percent of voters support “allowing adults in Florida to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” Forty-two percent of respondents opposed the idea.
When Florida voters were polled in 2013, only 48 percent of respondents backed legalizing the plant.
Independents (61 percent), Democrats (59 percent), and men (58 percent) were most likely to endorse legalization, while women (48 percent) and Republicans (33 percent) were least supportive.
When asked whether patients ought to be able to access cannabis for medicinal purposes, public support rose to 88 percent. This November, Florida voters will decide on a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to legalize and regulate the dispensing of cannabis to authorized patients. Because the measure seeks to amend the state constitution, 60 percent of voters must decide in favor of it before it may be enacted.
According to the poll, 45 percent of Florida voters — including 62 percent of those between the ages of 50 and 64 — acknowledge having tried cannabis.
The survey possesses a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points.
The enactment of state laws legalizing the physician-recommended use of cannabis therapy is not associated with increased levels of marijuana use by young people, according to data published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Researchers at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University assessed the impact of medical cannabis laws by examining trends in reported drug use by high-schoolers in a cohort of states before and after legalization. Researchers compared these trends to geographically matched states that had not adopted medical marijuana laws.
Authors reported overall “no statistically significant differences in marijuana use before and after policy change for any state pairing,” and acknowledged that some states that had adopted medical cannabis laws experienced a decrease in adolescent’s self-reported use of the plant. “In the regression analysis, we did not find an overall increased probability of marijuana use related to the policy change,” they stated.
Investigators concluded, “This study did not find increases in adolescent marijuana use related to legalization of medical marijuana. … This suggests that concerns about ‘sending the wrong message’ may have been overblown. … Our study … may provide some reassurance to policy makers who wish to balance compassion for individuals who have been unable to find relief from conventional medical therapies with the safety and well-being of youth.”
A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health similarly concluded that the passage of medical marijuana laws in various states has had no “statistically significant … effect on the prevalence of either lifetime or 30-day marijuana use” by adolescents residing in those states.
A 2012 study by researchers at McGill University in Montreal reported: “[P]assing MMLs (medical marijuana laws) decreased past-month use among adolescents … and had no discernible effect on the perceived riskiness of monthly use. … [These] estimates suggest that reported adolescent marijuana use may actually decrease following the passing of medical marijuana laws.”
Read the abstract of this latest study, “The Impact of State Medical Marijuana Legislation on Adolescent Marijuana Use,” online here.
Democrat Gov. Martin O’Malley today signed two separate pieces of legislation reforming the state’s marijuana laws.
Senate Bill 364 amends existing penalties for marijuana possession offenses involving ten grams or less from a criminal misdemeanor (presently punishable by arrest, up to 90 days in jail, a $500 fine, and a criminal record) to a non-arrestable, non-criminal fine-only offense ($100 fine for first-time offenders, $250 for second-time offenders). The new depenalization law takes effect on October 1, 2014.
House Bill 881 seeks to provide for the state-licensed production and dispensing of marijuana to qualified patients who possess a written certification from their physician. The new law will take effect on June 1, 2014, at which time the state shall establish a commission to draft rules and regulations overseeing the production and distribution of medical marijuana. However, the licensing program is not anticipated to be up and running until 2015.
Maryland is the 18th state to depenalize minor marijuana possession offenses to a non-arrestable offense. It is the 21st state to allow for the doctor-recommended access to medicinal cannabis.
Under the new law, state regulators are tasked with overseeing the creation of licensed establishments to produce, test, and dispense cannabis and cannabis-infused products to authorized patients. Nevada voters enacted a state constitutional amendment in 2000 mandating state lawmakers to allow for physicians to authorize qualified patients to consume and grow cannabis. However, that law did not provide for facilities where patients may obtain medicinal cannabis.
Approximately 3,800 Nevadans are presently authorized to grow and/or consume cannabis under state law.
Senate Bill 374 imposes limits on the home cultivation of cannabis if patients reside within 25-miles of an operating dispensary. However, patients who are cultivating specific strains of cannabis not provided by a local dispensary may continue to engage in the home cultivation of such strains. Patients who have an established history of cultivating medical cannabis prior to July 1, 2013, also may continue to do so until March 31, 2016.
The bill also amends possession limits from one-ounce to two and one-half ounces and increases plant cultivation limits from three mature plants to twelve.
Medical marijuana products dispensed by state-licensed facilities will be subject to standard state sales taxes as well as a 4 percent excise tax, of which 75 percent will be directed to education and 25 percent will be directed toward implementing and enforcing the regulations.
Arizona, Colorado, New Jersey, Maine, and New Mexico have state-licensed medical cannabis dispensaries up and running. Similar dispensary outlets are in the process of opening in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, DC.