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medical marijuana

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 4, 2013

    Lawmakers gave final approval on Monday to legislation, Senate Bill 374, to allow for the establishment of licensed facilities to dispense cannabis to state-qualified patients. The measure passed with two-thirds majorities in both legislative chambers. It now awaits action from Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has previously acknowledged that he is open to the idea of regulating medical cannabis dispensaries.

    If signed into law, SB 374 would establish rules and regulations for the establishment of up to 66 not-for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries.

    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.

    Nevada voters enacted legislation in 2000 to allow for physician authorized patients to consume and grow cannabis. However, the law does not explicitly provide for facilities where authorized patients may obtain medicinal cannabis.

    Approximately 3,800 Nevadans are presently authorized to grow and/or consume cannabis under state law.

    To track the progress of marijuana law reform legislation in other states, visit NORML’s ‘Take Action’ page here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director June 3, 2013

    Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Silver Tour will convene a medical marijuana training session and lobby day in Washington D.C. to encourage Congress and the Obama Administration to allow states greater autonomy to create their own cannabis policies without political pressure from the federal government.

    Lobby training session is scheduled for Sunday, June 16, with legislative lobbying all day Monday, June 17.

    summer-lobby-day-2013

    For more information about the schedule, speakers and activities, please visit here.

    Joining SSDP is the senior citizen medical cannabis educational project The Silver Tour, which is looking for crowdsource funding to bring The Silver Tour bus to Washington, D.C.

    According to their webpage they’ve already raised $5,500 of the $10,000 needed.

     

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 23, 2013

    Members of the New Hampshire Senate voted 18 to 6 today in favor of an amended version of House Bill 573, which allows for the physician-authorized use and state-licensed dispensing of cannabis to qualified patients. House lawmakers had previously voted 286 to 64 in March in favor of a broader version of the bill.

    As amended by the Senate, HB 573 would establish up to four state-sanctioned marijuana dispensing facilities. (The House version allowed for up to five facilities.) State-qualified patients would be allowed to possess up to two ounces of cannabis, but they would only be legally able to obtain it from a state-licensed dispensary. (The House version of the bill provided provisions for home cultivation.) Under the amended bill, patients lacking a state-issued identification card would not be permitted to raise an affirmative defense, meaning that patients who could benefit immediately from the therapeutic use of cannabis will be forced to wait several months until after the bill’s passage in order to obtain the necessary paperwork to receive any legal protection under the law. The Senate also voted to eliminate post-traumatic stress from the list of authorized conditions for which a physician could legally recommend marijuana therapy.

    The measure also stipulates that qualified patients must possess a preexisting relationship with their physician (of at least 90 days) and that they have previously pursued conventional remedies to treat their condition.

    Newly-elected Democrat Gov. Maggie Hassan had voiced her opposition to several elements of the House version, which spurred the Senate to adopt several changes.

    The Senate version of the bill now goes back to the House, whose members will either sign off on or, more likely, reject the Senate’s amendments. The latter action would create the need for a “committee of conference,” at which time a special committee of House representatives and senators will compromise on a final version of the bill. That language will then be forwarded to the governor’s desk.

    If you reside in New Hampshire, there is still time to contact the Governor’s office and urge her to rethink her position on these controversial Senate amendments. Tell her that these Senate provisions will hurt, not help, patients in New Hampshire. Implore her that seriously ill patients can not wait years for for dispensaries to become available and that they require a home grow alternative. You can call the Governor’s office or use NORML’s ‘Act’ page here.

    Finally, House Bill 573 co-sponsor, Rep. Donald “Ted” Wright, has launched a Change.org petition urging Gov. Hassan to amend her position. Whether or not you reside in New Hampshire, please sign the petition and share it with your friends and colleagues.

    For information on how you can support pending marijuana law reform legislation in other states, please visit here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 22, 2013

    A Michigan traffic safety law that prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle by persons who possess any presence of THC in their blood, regardless of whether or not they are behaviorally impaired by the substance, may not be strictly applied to state-qualified medical cannabis patients. So decided the Michigan Supreme Court on Tuesday in the case People v Koon.

    In a unanimous opinion, the Court determined that legal protections extended to state-qualified patients under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, enacted by voters in 2008, supersede the state’s zero tolerance, internal possession law. As a result, the Court determined that state prosecutors must establish that authorized patients charged under the statute are actually impaired by their cannabis use in order to gain a DUI criminal conviction.

    According to the syllabus of the Opinion:

    “The MMMA [Michigan Medical Marihuana Act] does not define what it means to be ‘under the influence,’ but the phrase clearly contemplates something more than having any amount of marijuana in one’s system and requires some effect on the person. Thus, the MMMA’s protections extend to a registered patient who internally possesses marijuana while operating a vehicle unless the patient is under the influence of marijuana. The immunity from prosecution provided under the MMMA to a registered patient who drives with indications of marijuana in his or her system but is not otherwise under the influence of marijuana inescapably conflicts with MCL 257.625(8) [the state's zero tolerance per se DUI law], which prohibits a person from driving with any amount of marijuana in her or system.”

    The state’s zero tolerance per se drug law remains applicable to non-patients. Under such laws, motorists are guilty per se (in fact) of a criminal traffic safety violation if they engage in the act of driving while detectable levels of certain controlled substances or, in some cases, their inert metabolites (byproducts) are present in the defendants’ blood or urine. Proof of actual impairment is not a requirement for a conviction under the law.

    To date, ten states — Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin — have enacted legislation imposing zero tolerance per se thresholds for the presence of cannabinoids and/or their metabolites. (State-authorized medical cannabis patients in Arizona and Rhode Island are exempt from prosecution under these per se statutes unless the state can provide additional evidence of psychomotor impairment.)

    Five additional states impose non-zero-tolerant per se thresholds for cannabinoids in blood: Montana (5ng/ml — law takes effect on October 1, 2013), Pennsylvania (1ng/ml), Ohio (2ng/ml), Nevada (2ng/ml) and Washington (5ng/ml). Most recently, Colorado lawmakers approved legislation stating that the presence of THC/blood levels above 5ng/ml “gives rise to permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence.” State-qualified patients in Colorado, Montana, and Nevada are not provided legal exemptions from these statutes, although legislation is presently pending in Nevada to do so.

    NORML believes that it is inadvisable to infer behavioral impairment based on the presence of blood/cannabinoid levels alone — a position that we outline here, here, and in public testimony here.

    Such caution is similarly expressed by the United States National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration, which acknowledges: “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects. … It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone.”

    A 2013 review of per se drugged driving laws and their impact on road safety found “no evidence that per se drugged driving laws reduce traffic fatalities.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 13, 2013

    Inhaling cannabis reduces symptoms of Crohn’s disease compared to placebo in patients non-responsive to traditional therapies, according to clinical trial data published online ahead of print in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

    Researchers at the Meir Medical Center, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology in Israel assessed the safety and efficacy of inhaled cannabis versus placebo in 21 subjects with Crohn’s disease who were nonresponsive to conventional treatments.

    Eleven participants smoked standardized cannabis cigarettes containing 23 percent THC and 0.5 percent CBD (cannabidiol) twice daily over a period of eight weeks. The other ten subjects smoked placebo cigarettes containing no active cannabinoids.

    Investigators reported, “Our data show that 8-weeks treatment with THC-rich cannabis, but not placebo, was associated with a significant decrease of 100 points in CDAI (Crohn’s Disease and activity index) scores.” (The CDIA is a research tool used to quantify the symptoms of Crohn’s disease patients.) Five of the eleven patients in the study group also reported achieving disease remission (defined as a reduction in patient CDAI score by more than 150 points).

    Researchers also reported that “no significant side effects” were associated with cannabis inhalation. Subjects in the study group reported improvements in appetite and sleep compared to those in the placebo group. Cannabis inhalation was also associated with “significantly less pain” among the participants.

    The study is the first placebo-controlled clinical trial to assess the consumption of cannabis for the treatment of Crohn’s.

    Israeli researchers had previously published observational trial data reporting that Crohn’s patients require fewer disease-related surgeries following their use of cannabis.

    According to survey data published in 2011 in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, some one-half of Crohn’s disease patients acknowledge having used cannabis to mitigate their disease symptoms.

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