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Medical Marijuana

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 27, 2020

    medical cannabis oilSenators on Wednesday passed legislation to significantly expand the pool of patients eligible to qualify for medical cannabis access.

    Members voted 28 to 6 in favor of an amended version of House Bill 819, which expands the discretion of physicians so that they can recommend cannabis therapy for “any condition” that he or she “considers debilitating to an individual patient and is qualified through his [or her] medical education and training to treat.” Under the current law, doctors may only recommend medical cannabis products to those patients with a limited number of select conditions, such as HIV and cancer.

    A handful of states, such as California, Maine, and Virginia, have enacted similar measures providing physicians with the ability to recommend medical cannabis preparations to any patient who they believe may benefit from them.

    Members of the House previously passed the measure by a vote of 77 to 15. As amended by the Senate, state-licensed dispensaries will be mandated to “comply with the reporting requirements of the [state’s] prescription monitoring program.”

    House Bill 819 is scheduled for a concurrence vote on Friday.

    Other bills before the Senate include HB 792, which establishes regulations permitting the home delivery of medical cannabis products to registered patients, and HB 418, which provides immunity from prosecution to “any facility that is licensed by the Louisiana Department of Health that has patients in its care using medical marijuana.”

    The state’s legislative session concludes at 6pm on Monday, June 1, 2020.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 22, 2020

    Republic Gov. Kevin Stitt has vetoed legislation, House Bill 3288, which sought to expand patients’ access to medical cannabis and make other amendments to the state’s marijuana laws.

    In his veto message, the Governor wrote: “The language in the bill makes substantial policy changes to the medical marijuana program that were not fully scrutinized through normal legislative procedures before the bill was received by my office in the middle of the night Saturday. While there is much room for improvement in the way our state’s program operates, this bill does not address those items in a way I can support.”

    The bill sought to allow operators to engage in the home delivery of medical cannabis products to authorized patients who live within a ten-mile radius of a state-licensed facility. Other provisions in the bill sought to enhance privacy protections for patients and caregivers registered in the program and strengthen parental rights for qualified patients.

    Separate language in the measure amended criminal penalties for persons who possess marijuana (up to 42.45 grams) without a state-issued medical card from a maximum penalty of $1,000 and up to one year in jail to a $400 fine and no jail time.

    Members of both chambers overwhelmingly voted in favor of the measure. However, Senate leadership was unwilling to hold a vote in an effort to override the Governor’s veto.

    Lawmakers this afternoon voted to adjourn the 2020 legislative session sin die (with no intended date to resume).

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 18, 2020

    Marijuana CBD OilHouse lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved two bills to amend the state’s medical marijuana program in a manner that significantly expands patients’ access to cannabis products.

    House Bill 819, which House members passed by a vote of 77 to 15, expands the discretion of physicians so that they can recommend cannabis therapy for “any condition” that he or she “considers debilitating to an individual patient and is qualified through his [or her] medical education and training to treat.” Under the current law, doctors may only recommend medical cannabis products to those patients with a limited number of select conditions, such as HIV and cancer.

    House lawmakers also passed a second bill, House Bill 792, by a vote of 81 to 13. The measure establishes regulations permitting the home delivery of medical cannabis products to registered patients.

    Both measures now await further action by members of the Louisiana Senate. The state’s legislative session concludes at 6pm on Monday, June 1, 2020.

    The state’s medical cannabis program became operational last August.

  • by Jenn Michelle Pedini, NORML Development Director May 12, 2020

    NORML Activist SpotlightTamara Netzel was a middle school English teacher, an Army officer’s wife, and possibly the most cannabis naive individual you could have met. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2013, and for a few years believed she could continue to teach and live her life as long as she followed all the doctors recommendations and took the medications they prescribed. When those very medications led to liver failure in 2017, triggering chronic pain and other MS symptoms, she was forced to retire from teaching. 

    A friend suggested Tamara try CBD oil for her pain, and it gave her relief like nothing else had. She didn’t have a clue what CBD was, nor did she know it was then illegal to possess. By the time she learned she was breaking the law, cannabis medicine was saving her life. Tamara knew she had to get involved and work to change the law in her state of Virginia. In no time at all she found herself front and center in Virginia NORML’s fight to legalize medical cannabis, testifying before the General Assembly, pleading for legal access not only for herself, but for all Virignians. Years later and after countless hours devoted by herself and other advocates at Virginia NORML, the state’s first medical cannabis dispensaries will finally begin opening dispensary doors to patients this summer. 

    Tamara Netzel testifies before the Virginia General Assembly with Senator Siobhan Dunnavant

    Tamara Netzel testifies before the Virginia General Assembly with Senator Siobhan Dunnavant

    Though for Tamara it was initially about trying to heal herself, she quickly realized that telling stories like her own could help others heal. And not just physical pain, but the mental pain associated with the criminalization of this plant. While some may discredit anecdotal information in efforts to reform marijuana laws, Tamara came to see that statistics and research must be accompanied by human stories to truly help others understand why these laws must be changed.

    As Virginia made significant progress in a short time with medical cannabis, Tamara quickly learned she needed to educate herself about the criminalization of cannabis. It concerned her that even as a registered patient, she could still be arrested. She had never had any experience with the criminal justice system, and she didn’t know anyone who had. People would tell her she had nothing to worry about because she was a middle aged white woman with MS. “I knew I didn’t fit the description of people who are disproportionately targeted for marijuana charges. At that point, I realized I had two choices: I could just be satisfied with my own white privilege, or I could try to use that privilege for good,” said Tamara.

    Once her teaching career had ended, Tamara was forced to answer the question of who she was now in this world. “I remembered I’m who I’ve always been, a person who helps others, and helps others learn,” recalled Tamara.  Her passion for helping and teaching led Tamara to begin curating a powerful new project, Cruel Consequences: Portraits of Misguided Law.

    Tamara Netzel and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring at the Virginia 2020 Legislative Cannabis Summit

    Cruel Consequences was founded with the mission of bringing awareness to the enormous suffering many experience from the collateral damage of marijuana – negative impacts that can last well after court costs and sentences have been fulfilled, and often for a lifetime. Through her advocacy work, Tamara met more and more people who had been arrested for cannabis, and it troubled her how important pieces of those stories were left out of the news coverage the general public sees.

    “Before I came to see cannabis as medicine, that missing that information was never a concern for me,” recalled Tamara, and like many other readers, she would unconsciously fill in the blanks with negative assumptions. She quickly learned that even after someone completed their sentence, they still suffered consequences like being denied employment, college loans, housing, and child custody, when all they wanted was to move on from the experience and live their best lives.

    After visiting the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Tamara was inspired to make Cruel Consequences a portrait exhibit. Marijuana arrest or conviction stories never tell the reader who that person really is, a loving parent, a hardworking son, a heroic veteran, a brave patient battling a horrible disease. If there is ever a photo with such a story, it is typically a mug shot or other unflattering image, taken often when someone  is having their worst day of their life. Why not show these people on a good day? Hopefully those opposed to marijuana law reform could then see the human side of this issue.

    Virginia NORML's 2020 Activist of the Year Tamara Netzel

    Virginia NORML’s 2020 Activist of the Year Tamara Netzel

    In Cruel Consequences’ first year, its portrait exhibits were displayed at dozens of events across the Mid-Atlantic. Notably, the project was the only art exhibit at the first Virginia Legislative Cannabis Summit, hosted by Attorney General, Mark Herring and the Virginia Legislative Cannabis Caucus to educate state lawmakers to learn about cannabis policy, and several portraits were on display throughout the Virginia General Assembly Building during the 2020 legislative session.

    This January, Virginia NORML recognized Tamara as Advocate of the Year, and she says she’s proud to have played a small part in their legislative victories. The project is always looking for more stories, please consider sharing yours. Like Tamara, by sharing your story, you can change lives.

     

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 30, 2020

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is seeking public comments on how Americans with chronic pain are successfully treating their symptoms.

    The call for comments, posted on April 17 at regulations.gov here, states: “Interested persons or organizations are invited to participate by submitting written views, recommendations, and data related to perspectives on and experiences with pain and pain management. CDC invites comments specifically on topics focused on using or prescribing opioid pain medications, non-opioid medications, or non-pharmacological treatments.”

    The CDC’s interest in alternative methods of chronic pain management may be of particular significance to many medical cannabis patients.

    According to state-registry records, “Chronic pain is currently and historically the most common qualifying condition reported by medical cannabis patients (67.5 percent in 2016).” This finding is hardly a surprise, as cannabis is well-established to mitigate pain in clinical models, particularly in patients with neuropathy. Additional clinical trial data indicates that cannabinoids possess synergistic activity with opioids, which “may allow for opioid treatment at lower doses with fewer [patient] side effects.” Among pain patients enrolled in medical cannabis access programs, most subjects report eventually decreasing or even eliminating their use of opiates.

    States the CDC, “Public comment will help CDC’s understanding of stakeholders’ values and preferences regarding pain management and will complement CDC’s ongoing work assessing the need for updating or expanding the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.”

    That said, it cautions that any public comments received “are part of the public record and are subject to public disclosure. Comments will be posted on https://www.regulations.gov. Therefore, do not include any information in your comment or supporting materials that you consider confidential, proprietary, or inappropriate for public disclosure. If you include your name, contact information, or other information that identifies you in the body of your comments, that information will be on public display.”

    The agency is accepting public comments through June 16, 2020.

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