Governors From Five States Sign Bills Into Law Creating Or Expanding Medical Cannabis Programs
This is a good week to be a pen manufacturer, as governors across the United States of America are running their pens dry signing new cannabis legislation into law. There is no doubting the momentum of the medical cannabis movement with these successful results seen across the country. Governors from Vermont, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, and Ohio signed legislation into law this week, which either creates or expands their state’s medical cannabis program. These political leaders are surely following the hearts and minds of their voting base, as is reflected in recent polling that “89 percent [are] in favor of allowing adults to legally use medical marijuana if prescribed by a doctor.” Legislation seems to be finally catching up to voters! Now the Federal Government needs to get itself moving, as Ohio’s new medical cannabis program makes it 25 out of 50 (26 out of 51 if you count Washington D.C.) which have a medical cannabis program. This is literally the moment the scales tip the opposite direction, and the majority of our great country has access to medical cannabis.
The Green Mountain State’s Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill into law which expands the state’s already existing medical cannabis program. Shumlin noted the importance of mitigating Vermont’s opioid epidemic as a main influencing factor in his decision. The new law adds chronic pain, glaucoma and hospice care patients to the list of approved patients. Shumlin made some of the highest pain pill consuming patients eligible for the program. These patients will now have access to a medicine which will relieve their pain without the threat of severe addiction. These new changes take effect immediately.
The Centennial State’s Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill into law which requires all Colorado schools to allow students who are also medical cannabis patients to medicate on school property. The law, know as “Jack’s Law”, allows that the use of medical cannabis in schools may be under strict conditions. The law was named after a student, named Jack Splitt, who had his medication seized while at school. Without his medication he was unable to mitigate his seizure disorder, and was unable to attend school. His mother testified how important it is for Jack, as it is for all kids, to attend school for both social and intellectual benefits. It is expected that schools will have their policies updated prior to the start of the next school year.
The Constitution State’s Governor Dannel P. Mallory signed a bill into law which opens access to Connecticut’s medical cannabis program to patients younger than 18 years of age. The patients must have one of five conditions: “a terminal illness requiring end-of-life care; cystic fibrosis; cerebral palsy; severe epilepsy or uncontrolled intractable seizure disorder; or an irreversible spinal cord injury with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity.” Furthemore the underage patients will need permission to use medical cannabis from a parent or guardian along with two separate physicians. Smoking, vaporization, or any inhalation of medical cannabis is expressly forbidden by under 18 patients by the law. This would leave patients with topicals, tinctures, capsules, or edibles as their options of choice. This new law goes into effect on October 1st.
The Pelican State’s Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill into law which removes criminal penalties for patients who use medical cannabis legally. Prior to this move legal patients and distributors were technically still able to be prosecuted under state law for possession of cannabis, even though it was obtained with the permission of the state itself. Clearly, Louisiana had the metaphorical cart before the horse on this one. The new law protects both patients, registered caregivers, and the parents of a minor from prosecution for illegal possession of cannabis. The state’s correction of this nuance in the interaction of laws is a testament to their commitment to make a program which is viable. The new law goes into effect on August 1st.
The Buckeye State’s Governor John Kasich signed a bill into law creating a brand new medical cannabis program for Ohio. Ohio is officially the 25th state to enact some form of legislation to allow legal access to medical cannabis. The law specifically bans any smoking of any form of cannabis, but does allow the sale of flower. There has not been any explanation on how the state will enforce the ban on smoking. The law allows local cities and municipalities to ban cannabis business, so it will be interesting to see which parts of the state will have local access to medical cannabis. Similar to other states employers will still be able to retain a “drug-free” workplace, and terminate employees who are legal medical cannabis patients. The state will also forbid home growing, a measure which was included in a voter sponsored initiative which has since been suspended. The program will include some 23 conditions. Doctors in the state will be required to complete training prior to being authorized by the state to recommend patients medical cannabis, and will also be required to attend continuing education courses on cannabis. Quite interestingly, the law specifically caps THC percentages at 35% for flower, and 75% for concentrates. The Ohio Patient Network does a great job of summarizing all the details of the new program. The new law goes into effect on September 6, 2016, but it is expected to take about two years until medical cannabis is in the hands of patients.
Finally, the Land of Lincoln, or the Prairie State to some, is about to earn its place as number six on this list. Governor Bruce Rauner is poised to sign a bill into law which both expands and extends the Illinois medical cannabis pilot program. The program is to be expanded two additional years, and PTSD and terminal illness will be added to the list of approved conditions for medical cannabis. One of the most important changes to the current law is regarding how doctors interact with the program. Doctors will no longer have to recommend cannabis in conjunction with the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, but will simply certify that there is a bona-fide Doctor-Patient relationship and that the patient has a qualifying condition. Please be sure to contact the Governor directly and remind him to make good on his word and sign this bill into law! You can even offer to lend him one of your pens if his has run out of ink!
Do you think the Federal Government should take note of the fact that half the nation’s states now have legal access to medical cannabis, and remove cannabis from the schedule one category? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook!
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Ohio Poised To Be The 25th State With Legal Medical Cannabis
Ohio is moving new medical cannabis legislation closer to becoming law. Yesterday, May 10, 2016, the Ohio house passed a bill which will provide patients access to legal medical cannabis. Ohio would be the 25th state in the union to pass legislation for medical cannabis, tipping the scales to a straight 50/50 balance of states with and without legal medical cannabis access. If you include Washington D.C as a “semi-state” Ohio would be the 26th state. The Ohio program will be similar to existing programs in other states which currently have legal access. The bill is reported as being sponsored by Rep. Stephen Huffman, both an emergency room doctor and a Representative in the House, who is “…absolutely convinced that there is therapeutic value in medical marijuana.” Notably Ohio legislators plan to allow vaporization but not smoking as a consumption method, and also not allow patients the ability to grow cannabis at home.
The bill has 20 qualifying conditions to start, with a board regulated process to add more in the future. Ohio is unfortunately setting up doctors in a very compromising position, as the new law would require them to recommend specific strains with defined THC levels, and also a specific method of consumption. These recommendations will put doctors directly at odds with the Federal Government and seriously jeopardize their legal ability to practice as doctors. The issue is rooted in the fact that cannabis is regulated as a schedule I drug, and by definition drugs classified as schedule I have no medical value and are forbidden to be prescribed by doctors. A big win for parents and caregivers is that they will have protections built into the bill from arrest or loss of their children because they are medical cannabis patients. No protection will extend into the workplace, because similar to other states like Illinois, the bill does not prevent an employer from retaining a drug-free workplace and terminating an employee for legal medical cannabis use. The new law will have included an opt-out clause for local municipalities which will be able to block cannabis licences in their towns if they so choose. The best feature of all in the bill is a measure to formally urge the Federal Government to reschedule cannabis to schedule II, in hopes of promoting more research on the topic.
Not all Ohio residents are on board with this bill passed by the House. There is a different medical cannabis bill for Ohio being championed by citizen lobby groups locally (Ohioans for Medical Marijuana) and nationally (Marijuana Policy Project). This bill would include a number of additional qualifying medical conditions, and also allow patients the ability to grow their own cannabis at home. Unlike the current bill just passed by the House, this would be a voter initiative passed through a majority vote in Ohio’s upcoming November 8th vote. In the case of both passing, a voter initiative would override a bill passed by the state congress.
Ohio Rep. Teresa Fedor voiced her concerns about the bill being “discriminatory” and “…a cruel joke.” Fedor feels that the state is setting up patients to lose their jobs by allowing medical use without any workplace protection. One has to admit her logic is sound and her position has merit. Ohio residents who legally obtain and use cannabis will have no protection from termination for violation of workplace drug policy. Ideally the federal government should re-schedule cannabis to a schedule II drug, which would allow doctors to write official prescriptions that grant the same protective exemption to patients who test positive for cannabis, as patients who test positive for opiates. To add insult to injury, under the current laws on the books Ohio residents who are terminated for legal medical cannabis use would also lose their unemployment benefits.
The bill is now moving through the legislative process into the Ohio State Senate where there may be some small adjustments made, but lawmakers expect to have the bill on Gov. John Kasich’s desk before their current session ends in June. Kasich is reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as being undecided on signing the bill, waiting to see that the final product “is written properly and there is a need for it.” While we may be able to have a healthy discourse about the specifics in the bill, there is no disputing the need for access to legal medical cannabis.
Do you think Ohio legislators are taking the right approach when it comes to their medical cannabis legislation? Tell us what you think in the comments below or on social media!
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