There was some hope last week that maybe, just maybe, American military veterans would finally have the right to discuss medical marijuana as a treatment option with their VA physician, but low and behold, the congressional majority just doesn’t think the time is right for common sense policy reform. Meanwhile, lawmakers in New York are diligently working to establish emergency medical marijuana access for critically ill patients, while advocates on the other side of the country in California are working to give medical marijuana patients the same right to organ transplants as anyone else.
Find out more about what went down last week in the wild world of marijuana reform in the High Times Legislative Roundup for May 4
Federal: Amendment to Allow Veterans Access to Medical Marijuana
An amendment to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill was introduced to Congress last week in hopes of giving veterans the opportunity to take advantage of medical marijuana programs in states where it is legal. This simple tweak to the budget, which was proposed by Congressman Earl Blumenauer, would have prohibited VA funding from being used to enforce the agency’s current prohibitionary model. Unfortunately, on Thursday, the bill was killed by the House of Representatives in a narrow vote of 213 to 210.
New York: Legislation to Provide Emergency Access to Medical Marijuana
A couple of state lawmakers have introduced legislation that would provide emergency access to medical marijuana for the severely ill. Assembly Bill A.7060 would allow those patients suffering from life threatening conditions, as well as children living with seizure disorders to be granted access to cannabis before the statewide program takes effect next year.
“This bill would create emergency access to medical marijuana for patients with the most urgent needs – including children suffering from severe epilepsy,” Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried said in a statement. “Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and I introducing this bill shows the broad, bipartisan support for emergency access. It is good and compassionate public health policy. If ever there was a basis for emergency action, the suffering of these children is it.”
The bill, which was approved by the Assembly Health Committee, would force the state to develop an emergency program as early as possible.
Tennessee: Governor Claims He Will Sign Cannabis Oil Legislation
Governor Bill Haslam said last week that he fully intends to sign a bill to legalize cannabis oil in the state of Tennessee. Unfortunately, while this move will give patients suffering from seizure disorders the legal right to use CBD, a non-intoxicating compound in marijuana, the bill does not include any provisions that would facilitate cultivation and distribution. Therefore, while legal, patients will still be forced to break federal law by smuggling medicine in from a legal state.
Maine: Initiative to Legalize Recreational Marijuana Approved
Legalize Maine, one of the coalitions working to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016, was awarded approval for an initiative they hope to get on the ballot in the next presidential election. Now, the group must collect 62,000 valid voter signatures before January 2016 in order to earn a spot on the ballot.
Texas: Lawmakers Consider Restrictive Medical Marijuana Program
State lawmakers are considering the passage of a restrictive medical marijuana program that would allow patients living with seizure disorders to have access to non-intoxicating cannabis oil. House Bill 892, which was debated in a hearing last week, would give epilepsy patients the right to use CBD oil to combat the condition. If passed, the state would implement a program to regulate and distribute the oils by 2018. The measure is currently pending in the House Committee on Public Health.
Penalties for Pot Possession Stay the Same
Unfortunately, three bills aimed at reducing the penalties associated with marijuana-related offenses in the state of Texas have been denied. On Friday, the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee struck down House Bill 507, House Bill 325, and House Bill 414, eliminating the chance for even a modest level of pot reform from happening this year.
Alabama: Medical Marijuana May Not Be Dead After All
After receiving hate mail from advocates across the state, Senator Jabo Waggoner, the chairman of the state Rules Committee, has decided to allow legislation aimed at legalizing medical marijuana to be heard. Earlier last week, High Times reported that a measure pushing to establish a statewide medical marijuana program was considered dead after Senator Waggoner announced that he would not schedule a hearing on the issue. However, new reports claim he has since received a number of angry emails and phone calls from pot proponents across the state, which has forced him to submit the bill to the committee. Depending on the outcome, this legislation could soon be on its way to the Senate floor for consideration.
Louisiana: Voters Could Decide on Recreational Marijuana
While advocates say it is not likely, there is still a possibility that Louisiana voters will get to decide on the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana in the 2016 election. Representative Dalton Honore recently introduced a proposal (House Bill 117) that would allow the voting public to determine if the state should operate a taxed and regulated cannabis market. Unfortunately, the largest obstacle with this bill is getting the majority of the State Legislature to support it. But even if the bill does somehow manage to pass, it would likely stand no chance of surviving the veto powers of Governor Bobby Jindal, who has said more than once that he will not support the total repeal of prohibition.
Also, it appears medical marijuana has a fighting chance at gaining some ground during the current legislative session. Last week, a Louisiana Senate committee advanced a proposal (Senate Bill 143) that would allow patients suffering from specific health conditions to have access to most forms of marijuana, with the exception of anything combustible. If by some bizarre stretch Governor Bobby Jindal would happen to sign this bill into law, the program would be launched sometime next year.
Oklahoma: Bill to Legalize Cannabis Oil Heads to Governor’s Office
A bill aimed at legalizing non-intoxicating cannabis oil in Oklahoma is headed to the governor’s desk for a signature. House Bill 2154, which would create a pilot program to explore the medicinal benefits of CBD oil for children suffering from epilepsy, is expected to be signed by into law by Governor Mary Fallin. The program would partner the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics with the Commissioner of Health and OU Medical Center to provide clinical trials for epilepsy patients. Only those patients who qualify for these programs would be granted access to CBD.
California: Cannabis Organ Transplant Bill Passes
A bill aimed at preventing medical marijuana patients in California from being excluded from organ transplants has been approved by the State Assembly and is now on its way to the Senate. The Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act, which was introduced by Assembly Member Marc Levine, passed on Thursday in a vote of 52 to 8. If it becomes law, this measure would work to give patients medicating with cannabis the same right to organ transplants as other citizens across the state. Currently, the law dictates that anyone who tests positive for cannabinoids is automatically lumped into the “illegal drug user” category and excluded from the transplant process.