Last year, the US Senate approved a provision that would allow Veteran Affairs doctors to discuss medical marijuana as an option for certain ailments, but congress did not include the provision within the final spending bill. The bill is back this year and has already been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, now headed to the full Senate. The amendment seeks to connect veterans with their primary care providers and allow them to discuss all medical options, including medical marijuana. The bill would also remove the current system of denying prescription medication to those testing positive for marijuana. Only veterans living in states with legal medical marijuana programs will be effected by this bill. “Veterans should not be denied access to a medicine that can help alleviate their condition, and doctors must be able to discuss and recommend all treatments,” Michael Collins, deputy director for the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs, said in a statement. “They have served this country, and shouldn’t be discriminated against.”
After approving revisions from both the House and the Senate, Pennsylvania's medical marijuana bill was passed this week and is on it's way to Governor Tom Wolf's desk, where he said he is "proud and excited to sign this bill". Once signed, the bill would allow patients with any of the 17 qualyfing conditions to purchase medical quality cannabis concentrates from any of the 50 dispensaries licensed in the state. Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program will not allow smokable forms of cannabis, but instead will sell pills, oils, and tinctures. None of the medical cannabis will be taxed, and there is currently no provision in the bill about growing marijuana at home, leaving it a criminal offense. The conditions for which physicians would be allowed to provide recommendations include cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, Huntington's disease, Crohn's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, intractable seizures, glaucoma, sickle cell anemia, autism, neuropathic pain, and severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional therapies, including prescription opiates, are ineffective.
New York's marijuana program began in January and has not seen much progress since. Only 526 doctors are registered and 2,675 patients are certified, leaving a huge population of patients who could still benefit from the program. 17 of the licensed 20 dispensaries have opened, but the program is still limited while the list of qualifying conditions remains small. Even children with forms of epilepsy treated only by cannabidiol (cbd oil) are not able to access their medicine. If the newly proposed bill is passes, nurse practioners and phsycian assistants will also be able to recommend cannabis. "When you have a core group of advocates who have been (at the Capitol) 10, 20 times and many of us can't access medication, that is a huge flaw in this program," said Kate Hintz, a North Salem resident whose 5-year-old daughter, Morgan Jones, has Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy.
Last year, Louisiana lawmakers passed a medical marijuana bill that was restrictive enough to pass, and intended to allow LSU and Southern University to manufacture the plant. Since then, patients have seen virtually no progress and have yet to hear an estimated day they might have access to treatment. Frustrated patients are hoping this newly introduced bill, HB 1112, will speed things up. This new bill introduced could take some of the regulating out of the state's hands by allowing privatized companies to manufacture and distribute the drug. Not just anyone would be able to grow marijuana though, the current language on the bill would require each business to focus on specific qualifications and technical expertise. If passed, the Department of Agriculture would start taking applications on January 1. "It's my hope the Sheriff's Association will see this as us trying to make sure we're taking a bite out of the black market," Brown said. "We're going to take some of their trade and commerce in the cartels or kingpins or street level dealers -- some of the patients who had nowhere else to go -- we're going to remove that."
The DEA announced last week that they're debating reclassifying cannabis down to Schedule II with adderal and oxycodone, and removing it from Schedule I with heroin and LSD. If the DEA follows through it will open up the research market to colleges and pharmaceutical companies to delve into the never-before-seen world of cannabis. The FDA has approved two marijuana-based drugs for nerve pain and appetite stimulation, but there are over 60 known cannabinoids that have yet to be properly studied and could prove useful for treating other ailments. The American Medical Association has already given their support for the reclassification in hopes of developing new cannabinoid-based medicine. Hill pointed out there are around 60 known compounds in marijuana and that many have not been thoroughly studied by researchers looking for medicinal uses. A new classification will mean it will be easier for researchers to obtain licenses to examine these chemicals for medical treatments and to access suppliers, experts said.
New Jersey has one of the most restrictive medical marijuana programs in the country with only 10 conditions that can qualify patients. Last week lawmakers introduced legislation that would include menstrual cramps in the qualifying conditions, allowing women to seek treatment for their pain. The motivation to include menstrual cramps comes from Whoopi Goldberg and Maya Elisabeth as they introduce their new line of products directed towards women's painful time of the month. The products will be available first in California at Maya's boutique, Om Edibles, where she will be selling several new products including the soothing new THC-infused bath salts. Products are expected to be in by April 20th. “Every month women experience pain and discomfort associated with their period. Cannabis is a wonderful remedy, and combined with other superfoods and medicinal herbs, can provide the type of relief many women need,” said Ms. Elisabeth. She is the owner of Om Edibles, founded in 2008 and is one of the most innovative manufacturers in the burgeoning California medical cannabis market.
Due to it's historic stigma, marijuana has had very little official research performed, especially human trials. After a family in Israel tried many medications with no progress, they were astonished to see the positive reaction that cannabis oil brought to their baby boy. Suffering dozens of seizures a day, Lavie Parush was given medical cannabis in the form of CBD oil and his parents saw the difference immediately. It was only a few weeks later that the seizures had ceased completely, bringing hope to the grateful parents that they may one day be able to truly meet their son. "We saw a difference immediately and after a few weeks, we didn't see any seizures at all," Lavie's father Asaf Parush says. Other medicines didn't work, his father says or worse, caused severe side effects. Lavie has now been on medical cannabis for a year and a half.
To anyone who has smoked or just googled marijuana, it's clear that marijuana is less harmful than the legal and lethal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 drug next to heroin and LSD, meaning it has "no medical value and high potential for abuse". 23 states in the US would disagree with saying pot has "no medical value" as their medical marijuana systems are not only bringing relief to patients in need, but the states are also racking up considerable tax revenue. The DEA, not doctors or scientists, will be deciding if marijuana should be rescheduled within the next few months. If moved down to Schedule 2, with cocaine, cannabis would still remain federally illegal while also lifting many of the bans and prohibition on new research for medical marijuana. Should the DEA decide to reschedule marijuana, bumping it down with supposedly less dangerous drugs such as cocaine (Schedule 2) or ketamine (Schedule 3), the move would likely open the door for expanded research of cannabis’ potential for medical applications.
It's easy for lawmakers to ignore medical marijuana research, until families begin pleading for fair policy that would allow perfectly safe medication to treat thier child's epileptic seizures. Like many states around the US, lawmakers in Kansas have decided to listen to these desperate families and continue passing legislation allowing low THC and high CBD cannabis concentrates. Another measure to lower penalties for simple possession will continue to be debated when the legislature returns at the end of April. Current penalties for possession in Kansas can get you a year in jail on a first offense and up to 42 months for a second offense. “For simple possession of marijuana, you can do more time or as much time as a person who commits a fairly serious offense,” Roth said. The bill reduces penalties for first-time marijuana possession, which now can bring a year in jail, to no more than six months in jail. The penalty for a second offense would become the most serious misdemeanor, bringing a sentence of up to a year in jail, reduced from a low-level felony. Subsequent offences could result in 10 to 42 months in prison, the current punishment for a second possession offense.
Despite the positive and negative marijuana legislation circulating, some bills have a purpose that is so misinformed that it only wastes lawmaker's time and taxpayer's money. One initiative in Colorado seeks to limit the THC content in cannabis products to 16% which has no logic or science to support such a strong limitation. Currently the average potency for marijuana bud is 17%, while concentrates average a 62% THC level. A severe limit of THC in all cannabis products would hurt patients most as their strong symptons require a stronger medicine. As many activists were very quick to point out, alcohol such as Everclear has a much, much higher percentage. One activist pointed out that there is no vitamin C limit in oranges in Colorado, so why would there be one with THC? The fact of the matter is patients would be most hurt by these proposals. The most suffering patients need the strongest medicine, and to take away that option would put a lot of the most suffering patients in very unfair (and non-compassionate) situations.
This week in Ohio a new initiative was approved that would establish a medical marijuana system for patients of debilitating illnesses like cancer or epilepsy. Paid petitioners and volunteers alike will be working to gather nearly 306,000 signatures by July to make November's ballot. Many advocates have family who are effected by an illness treatable by cannabis, some are patients themselves. More information on this particular initiative is available here: https://www.ohioansformmj.org/initiative “A lot of our volunteers are family members of patients or patients themselves, so they’re incredibly motivated. The initiative process isn’t easy, but it pales in comparison to undergoing chemotherapy or witnessing your child have seizures on a daily basis.” “I’m excited to let voters know about this initiative and why it’s so important to me,” said Amanda Candow, a multiple sclerosis patient in Mentor who plans to volunteer for the campaign. “I’m particularly interested in sharing my story with folks who are still skeptical about medical marijuana. My friends and neighbors already know how much this law would help patients like me.”
After a final vote in the Vermont Senate, legislation to recreationally legalize small amounts of marijuana is on it's way to the House floor this week where it will be heavily debated. The bill would allow adults over 21 to purchase under an ounce of marijuana from a dispensary and would enact a tax of 25%. Tax revenue would be reserved for law enforcement and drug treatment programs to help educate young people and curb the amount of harder drugs on the street. Many legislators in Vermont are aware that daily marijuana users make up close to 80,000 in the state and it's time to create proper policy that works for the citizens. Pearson believes prohibition isn’t working, so lawmakers should approach pot the same as alcohol and tobacco. “The data suggests that upwards of 80,000 Vermonters are using cannabis every month. So we should recognize that reality and by treating it like alcohol, taxing and regulating it, we can do a better job of keeping marijuana out of the hands of young Vermonters. We can generate a little bit of revenue so we can do a better job of treating opiate addiction. And really have a policy that closer reflects the reality of how Vermonters treat cannabis in their private lives.”