Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Sunday, October 16, 2016

"The Hazy Rollout of Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program"

LogoThe title of this post is the title of this astute and useful review of early medicial marijuana regulatory developments in the great state of Ohio authored by two attorneys in the Benesch law firm’s Health Care & Life Sciences Practice Group.  Here is how this "client bulletin" gets started:

When Ohio House Bill 523 (HB 523) became effective on September 8, 2016, Ohio joined the company of 25 other states, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. territories that have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes. Modeled after highly restrictive regimes adopted by state legislatures in Illinois, Maryland, and New York, the Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) envisioned by HB 523 has the potential to be one of the most complex and heavily regulated medical cannabis programs in the country. HB 523 relies on a tightly controlled ‘Schedule II’ pharmaceuticalstyle regulatory framework, but the Ohio legislature left some room for flexibility in the MMCP by punting to the rulemaking process several of the toughest issues it faced, such as determining the number of licenses available under the MMCP, the cost of licenses, the geographical distribution of medical cannabis businesses, and the hurdles doctors will face in order to recommend medical cannabis to patients with qualifying medical conditions.

The ultimate functionality of the MMCP – both in terms of the opportunity for seriously ill patients to access medicine, and the opportunity for market participants to create a sustainable program to serve those patients – will be determined by the extensive rulemaking and licensure process to be carried out by the Department of Commerce, the state Pharmacy Board, and the state Medical Board over the next two years. Several early indicators, however, have begun to cast doubt on the program’s viability as written. This article recaps several recent developments in the MMCP and addresses specifically the Medical Board’s recent guidance on the “affirmative defense” provision of HB 523, the only part of the law that is currently operational.

October 16, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Latest polling suggests Florida voters will approve medical marijuana constitutional amendment by needed super-majority this November

Footerlogo.fw_This local article from Florida, headlined "Poll: 73% of voters support medical marijuana ballot initiative," suggests that a needed super-majority of voters in the largest and most important state considering a medical marijuana initiative are supportive of reform.  Here are the basics (with links from the original): 

The 2016 medical marijuana ballot initiative has strong support among Floridians, according to a new poll.   A new poll from the Florida Chamber Political Institute found 73 percent of voters would support the amendment. The survey found 22 percent were opposed to the ballot initiative....

The 2016 proposal allows people with debilitating medical conditions, as determined by a licensed Florida physician, to use medical marijuana. The amendment defines a debilitating condition as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things.

A similar amendment received 58 percent of the vote in 2014, just shy of the 60 percent needed to become law.

The new Florida Chamber Political Institute survey is in line with other recent polls, which showed 70 percent of Floridians supported the amendment.

Though many folks understandably and justifiably are looking at full legalization initiatives in California and a handful of others states in 2016 as the "big" marijuana reform story to watch this election cycle, I continue to think the likely impact of Floridians strongly supporting medical marijuana reform come November could be profound.

Florida is, for various reasons both political and practical, the most significant (not to mention the most populous) state in the southeast region. If Florida voters approve medical marijuana by a huge margin, Florida's elected officials at both the state and federal levels will likely be joining the ever-growing bandwagon of prominent politicians with a vested local interest in at least easing the tensions between state-level marijuana reforms and federal prohibition.

September 27, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Effective review of the nine state with marijuana initiatives going to voters this November

International Business Times has this up-to-date article, headlined "Marijuana Legalization 2016 Ballot: Which States Are Voting On Cannabis Laws On Election Day?," providing an effective review of where and what voters will be considering as to marijuana reform in numerous states. Here are the basics:

More than 82 million U.S. residents will have the chance to cast ballots on marijuana measures when they go to vote for president come Election Day in November. Marijuana laws – whether it be to legalize or decriminalize – have been added to the ballot in nine states. Here's everything you need to know about the marijuana proposals voters will decide on come Nov. 8.

Arizona – Under the guidelines of Proposition 205, or Arizona’s Marijuana Legalization Initiative, adults 21 and up would be allowed to possess and recreationally use one ounce or less of marijuana....

Arkansas – The Natural State is set to vote on two marijuana measures: Arkansas Issue 7 Medical Cannabis Statute and Arkansas Medical Marijuana Issue 6. If the majority of residents vote “yes” for Issue 6, then medical marijuana will be legal and a dispensary and cultivation license fees will receive a cap....

California – Medical cannabis has been legal in California since 1996. Proposition 64, also called the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, would legalize recreational weed and hemp for people 21 and older....

Florida – Amendment 2 legalizes medical marijuana for patients suffering from specific debilitating diseases including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis....

Maine – Question 1 (2016) would legalize recreational use of marijuana throughout the state, which has allowed legal medical marijuana since 1999.

Massachusetts – Question 4 would fully legalize marijuana with regulations similar to the state’s approach to alcoholic beverages....

Montana – Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative I-182 is an amendment to the already-passed Montana Medical Marijuana Act. Should the new measure pass, the current medical marijuana laws will be adjusted to allow more patients access to medical marijuana....

Nevada – People 21 and older would be able to possess and use up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes under Nevada’s Question 2.

North Dakota – Initiated Statutory Measure 5 gives patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, Hepatitis C, ALS, and glaucoma and epilepsy access to medical marijuana with a specific identification card.

September 24, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Appreciating the northeastern midwest's magical medical marijuana research opportunities

Corporate_mapAs marijuana reform advocates (and perhaps regular readers) know, 2016 has been something of a banner year for medical marijuana reform in key part of the northern midwest.  Specifically,

--- in April, Pennsylvania's Democratic Governor signed into law the Keystone State's new medical marijuana law (basics here);

--- in June, Ohio's Republican Governor signed into law the Buckeye State's new medical marijuana law (basics here); and

--- in September, as reported here, Michigan's Republican Governor signed into law new medical marijuana regulations.

As a number of folks know, these three states are always interesting to watch and study politically and practically on an array of issues for an array of reasons.  Pennsylvania is at once an urban east-coast state around Philadelphia, an urban midwest state around Pittsburgh, and a rural state in between.  Ohio is the ultimate bellwether state with urban, suburban and rural, northern and southern regions and populations that closely mirror many national realities.  And Michigan likewise has a diverse array of distinctive regions (and, in this context, has a considerable history of a legal but largely unregulated medical marijuana industry).

I could go on and on about why each of these states with their own distinctive (and still developing) medical marijuana laws justify close study individually.  But my point in this post is to highlight the unique and uniquiely important research opportunity presented by the fact that all three of these (connected) states have new and detailed medical marijuana regulations coming on line at roughly the same time.  In particular, I am hopeful that some of the independent research entities following marijuana reform developments closely (e.g., the Brookings Institution and the Rand Corporation) will give particular attention in the months and years ahead to these particular democratic laboratories.

September 22, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

New York Department of Health releases two-year report on "Medical Use of Marijuana Under the Compassionate Care Act"

ThI was pleased to find this big new data-rich report from the New York Department of Health titled simply "Medical Use of Marijuana Under the Compassionate Care Act: Two-Year Report."  For those really interested in really understanding how really serious medical marijuana programs are operating (as I am), this kind of official report is terrifically interesting and valuable.  Here is the 13-page report's introduction and some of its closing recommendations:

On July 7th, 2014, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law the Compassionate Care Act to establish a comprehensive Medical Marijuana Program (“program”). Just eighteen months after the Compassionate Care Act was signed into law, the first New Yorkers obtained medical marijuana. The program launched on time and statewide, providing access to a new treatment option for patients in a manner that protects public health and safety. Within the first six months of operation, over 5,000 patients were certified with the program. The program also registered more than 600 physicians across the State. In just six months, New York’s program has more physicians registered than other states whose programs have been in existence for significantly longer than New York’s. The program continues to oversee the manufacture and sale of medical marijuana to ensure that it is dispensed and administered in a manner that protects public health and safety.

Pursuant to Public Health Law (PHL) § 3367(3), this report provides an overview of Medical Marijuana Program activities since the signing of the Compassionate Care Act, as well as recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature. The data for this report was obtained on June 15, 2016, from the New York State Department of Health’s (NYSDOH) Medical Marijuana Data Management System (MMDMS) and the Prescription Monitoring Program Registry (PMPR)....

1.  NYSDOH recommends authorizing Nurse Practitioners (NPs) to certify New Yorkers for medical marijuana, consistent with their current authority to prescribe controlled substances (including opioids) for patients diagnosed with qualifying conditions covered in the Compassionate Care Act. Allowing NPs to issue certifications for medical marijuana would allow them to properly treat patients suffering from severe, debilitating or life threatening conditions, particularly in many rural counties where there are fewer physicians available to treat such ailments....

4.  NYSDOH recommends evaluating allowing distribution of Medical Marijuana to certified patients through home delivery services provided by registered organizations, and review of policies and procedures from other jurisdictions to help craft guidelines to provide for a safe and effective home delivery program.....

5.  NYSDOH recommends working with the registered organizations to make more brands of medical marijuana products available to patients....

7.  NYSDOH recommends a review of evidence be conducted for the medical use of marijuana in patients suffering from chronic intractable pain....

9.  To meet additional patient demand and increase access to medical marijuana throughout New York State, NYSDOH recommends registering five additional organizations over the next two years, using a phased-in approach to permit their smooth integration into the industry.

August 24, 2016 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Noting the lack of racial diversity in recipients of first Maryland medicial marijuana licenses

This Washington Post article, headlined "Missing from Maryland’s legal marijuana growers? Black business leaders," reports on an all-too-common business pattern that tends to emerge as a state gets started with modern marijuana reforms.  Here is how the article gets started:

Maryland set up its legal medical marijuana industry with hopes of racial diversity and equity in spreading profits, but none of the 15 companies that were cleared this week for potentially lucrative growing licenses is led by African Americans.

Some lawmakers and prospective minority-owned businesses say this is unacceptable in a state where nearly a third of the population is black, the most of any state with a comprehensive legal pot industry.  They say the lack of diversity is emblematic of how, across the country, African Americans are disproportionately locked up when marijuana use is criminalized yet are shut out of the profits when drug sales are legalized.  “We are not going to see this industry flourish in the state of Maryland with no minority participation,” said Del. Cheryl D. Glenn (D-Baltimore), chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus.

Glenn was a key player in the legalization battle, and the commission that awards medical marijuana business licenses and oversees the industry is named after her mother, Natalie LaPrade, who died of cancer.  She is considering filing a legal injunction to halt the licensing process and is weighing other options, such as pushing the commission to award additional licenses to minority-owned companies.

The law legalizing medical marijuana says regulators should “actively seek to achieve” racial and ethnic diversity in the industry.  But the commission did not provide extra weight to applications submitted by minority-owned businesses because a letter from the attorney general’s office suggested that preferences would be unconstitutional without there being a history of racial disparity in marijuana licensing to justify the move.

A spokeswoman for the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission said there will be future opportunities to expand minority participation when the agency awards dispensary licenses and when it considers issuing more cultivation licenses in 2018 if supply doesn’t meet demand.  Businesses must also submit annual reports on the racial breakdown of their ownership and workforce, providing a more comprehensive look at the industry’s diversity.  “The Commission believes a diverse workforce is in the best interest of the industry,” said Vanessa Lyon, the spokeswoman.

But Glenn and other critics say the state hasn’t done enough to ensure diversity in the blossoming business that’s already worth billions nationwide.

August 21, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Highlighting myriad challenges for doctors in a world of widespread state medical marijuana reforms

Dt_160517_medical_marijuana_cannabis_800x600This recent USA Today piece, headlined "As states OK medical marijuana laws, doctors struggle with knowledge gap," puts a needed spotlight on what I think may be the most under-examined aspect of modern state medical marijuana reforms. Here are excerpts:

Medical marijuana has been legal in Maine for almost 20 years.  But Farmington physician Jean Antonucci says she continues to feel unprepared when counseling sick patients about whether the drug could benefit them.  Will it help my glaucoma?  Or my chronic pain?  My chemotherapy’s making me nauseous, and nothing’s helped.  Is cannabis the solution? Patients hope Antonucci, 62, can answer those questions.  But she said she is still “completely in the dark.”

Antonucci doesn’t know whether marijuana is the right way to treat an ailment, what amount is an appropriate dose or whether a patient should smoke it, eat it, rub it through an oil or vaporize it.  Like most doctors, she was never trained to have these discussions. And, because the topic still is not usually covered in medical school, seasoned doctors, as well as younger ones, often consider themselves ill-equipped.  Even though she tries to keep up with the scientific literature, Antonucci said, “it’s very difficult to support patients but not know what you’re saying.”

As the number of states allowing medical marijuana grows – the total has reached 25 plus the District of Columbia – some are working to address this knowledge gap with physician training programs.  States are beginning to require doctors to take continuing medical education courses that detail how marijuana interacts with the nervous system and other medications, as well as its side effects.

Though laws vary, they have common themes. They usually set up a process by which states establish marijuana dispensaries, where patients with qualifying medical conditions can obtain the drug.  The conditions are specified on a state-approved list. And the role of doctors is often to certify that patients have one of those ailments. But many say that, without knowing cannabis’ health effects, even writing a certification makes them uncomfortable.  “We just don’t know what we don’t know. And that’s a concern,” said Wanda Filer, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a practicing doctor in Pennsylvania.

This medical uncertainty is complicated by confusion over how to navigate often contradictory laws.  While states generally involve physicians in the process by which patients obtain marijuana, national drug policies have traditionally had a chilling effect on these conversations.  The Federation of State Medical Boards has tried to add clarity. In an Aug. 9 JAMA editorial, leaders noted that federal law technically prohibits prescribing marijuana and tasks states that allow it for medical use to “implement strong and effective ... enforcement systems to address any threat those laws could pose to public safety, public health and other interests.”  If state regulation is deemed insufficient, the federal government can step in.

That's why many doctors say they feel caught in the middle, not completely sure of where the line is now drawn between legal medical practice and what could get them in trouble. In New York, which legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes in 2014, the state health department rolled out a certification program last October. (The state’s medical marijuana program itself launched in January 2016.)  The course, which lasts about four hours and costs $249, is part of a larger physician registration process. So far, the state estimates 656 physicians have completed the required steps.  Other states have contacted New York’s Department of Health to learn how the training works.

Pennsylvania and Ohio are also developing similar programs.  Meanwhile in Massachusetts, doctors who wish to participate in the state medical marijuana program are required to take courses approved by the American Medical Association. Maryland doesn’t require training but encourages it through its Medical Cannabis Commission website, a policy also followed in some other states.

Physicians appear to welcome such direction.  A 2013 study in Colorado, for instance, found more than 80% of family doctors thought physicians needed medical training before recommending marijuana.  But some advocates worry that doctors may find these requirements onerous and opt out, which would in turn thwart patients’ access to the now-legal therapy, said Ellen Smith, a board member of the U.S. Pain Foundation, which favors expanded access to medical cannabis.

Education is essential, given the complexity of how marijuana interacts with the body and how little physicians know, said Stephen Corn, an associate professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine at Harvard Medical School.  Corn also co-founded The Answer Page, a medical information website that supports the New York program and is also bidding to supply information for the Pennsylvania program, Corn said....

From a medical standpoint, the lack of information is troubling, Filer said. “Typically, when we’re going to prescribe something, you’ve got data that shows safety and efficacy,” she said.  With marijuana, the body of research doesn’t match what many doctors are used to for prescription drugs.

Still, Corn said, doctors appear pleased with the state training sessions. More than 80% of New York doctors who have taken his course said they changed their practice in response to what they learned.  But even now, whenever Corn speaks with doctors about medical marijuana, people ask him how they can learn more about the drug’s medical properties and about legal risks.  Those two concerns, he said, likely reduce the number of doctors comfortable with and willing to discuss marijuana’s place in medicine, even if it’s allowed in their states.

August 14, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"The Biggest Legislative Marijuana Policy Reforms Of 2016"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Huffington Post commentary authored by Rob Kampia, who is the co-founder and executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. Here are excerpts:

On July 29, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed a bill removing the threat of arrest for small amounts of marijuana, capping a record year of legislative and administrative marijuana policy reforms throughout the country.

Two states, Pennsylvania and Ohio, enacted effective medical marijuana laws via their legislatures, making them the 24th and 25th states to do so, respectively.  As a result, more than half of the U.S. population now lives in states that have opted to legalize medical marijuana.

This year has also seen improvements to several existing medical marijuana programs. Colorado adopted “Jack’s Law,” which provides protections for medical marijuana patients who attend public schools.  Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont expanded the lists of medical conditions for which patients can qualify to use medical marijuana.  Vermont also enacted a law that reduces the required time for a patient-provider relationship from six to three months, allows marijuana to be transferred to research institutions, and requires labeling and child-resistant packaging for edibles sold at dispensaries.  Oregon increased access to medical marijuana for veterans who receive assistance from the VA program.  In Illinois, Gov. Rauner signed a bill to extend and expand the state’s pilot medical marijuana program, and in Maryland, lawmakers enacted a law allowing nurse practitioners, dentists, podiatrists, and nurse midwives to recommend medical marijuana to qualifying patients....

In addition to Illinois, a number of other states enacted laws to reduce marijuana possession penalties. Kansas lowered the maximum jail sentence for first-time possession and reduced second offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Louisiana and Maryland removed criminal penalties for possession of paraphernalia, with the Maryland Legislature overriding Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto.  Oklahoma cut the penalties for second marijuana possession offenses in half, and Tennessee reduced a third possession offense from a felony to a misdemeanor, making the maximum penalty less than a year in jail.  At the local level, New Orleans and a number of Florida counties passed ordinances that give police the option to issue summons or citations instead of arresting people for low-level possession.

In states where marijuana is legal for adults, legislators and regulators made notable improvements and progress toward full implementation.  In Colorado, lawmakers passed a bill to allow out-of-state ownership of marijuana businesses and increased the amount of marijuana that non-residents may purchase at retail establishments. Colorado also increased local control of testing laboratories and created a new business category for businesses that transport marijuana.  And in Washington State, a number of bills were passed to streamline practices in the marijuana industry and make it easier to apply for research licenses.

Alaska regulators began licensing marijuana cultivators and expect to begin issuing retail licenses soon.  Oregon is in the process of licensing adult-use marijuana retailers while currently allowing any adult to purchase marijuana from existing medical dispensaries; Oregon also passed comprehensive regulations that, among many other things, increase cooperation between the medical and adult retail programs, exempt patients from being taxed, allow out-of-state investment in marijuana businesses, and protect financial institutions from prosecution under state law for doing business with the marijuana industry.

August 10, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Reviewing all the states where voters will weigh in on marijuana reform during Election 2016

With now only three months to Election Day 2016, I thought it useful to reprint the start of this new International Business Times article headlined "Where Will Pot Be Legal Next? Recreational Marijuana On The Ballot In 5 States On Election Day 2016":

Despite Americans' statistical lack of enthusiasm for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Green Party still has little chance of getting nominee Jill Stein into the White House. But another kind of green is poised to have a big election day this year: recreational marijuana.

Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington might soon have some company in the ranks of states that have legalized recreational marijuana use.  Five states — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada — will vote on recreationally legalizing pot on ballot measures this year on election day in November.  The states would determine individually what the parameters of legalization would be — California has signaled that recreational pot would be legal for adults over 21 and subject to a 15 percent sales tax.

In addition to those states, four other states — Arkansas, Florida, Montana and Missouri — will have ballot measures this year to make marijuana legal for medical use.  The eight ballot measures will be the largest swath of voters weighing in on the issue of marijuana legalization in history.  "This is really a watershed year for marijuana legalization, so I'm hoping that we'll see some big changes in November," F. Aaron Smith, co-founder and executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, told CNN.

By my count, five recreational initiatives and four medical initiatives adds up to NINE ballot issues. Perhaps even more significant if we are counting heads is that around 25% of the entire national population will be voting on marijuana reform issues, making the 2016 election year arguably the closest possible thing to a national referendum on blanket marijuana prohibition. If the majority of these ballot initiatives pass, and especially if the initiaitive pass big in the really big/significant states of California and Florida, I do it will be all but certain that federal marijuana prohibition is reformed in some significant way before the end of the decade.

August 4, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

"Marijuana Agriculture Law: Regulation at the Root of an Industry"

The title of this post is the title of this notable forthcoming paper authored by Ryan Boudin Stoa available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Marijuana legalization is sweeping the nation.  As many as thirty marijuana legalization initiatives may appear on election ballots in 2016, legalizing the recreational or medicinal use of marijuana in as many as 17 states and adding to the growing number of states that have already legalized marijuana.  Many of these legalization initiatives propose to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol, and many titles are variations of “the regulate marijuana like alcohol act.”  For political and public health reasons the analogy makes sense, but it also reveals a regulatory blind spot.  States may be using alcohol as a model for regulating the distribution, retail, and consumption of marijuana, but marijuana is much more than a retail product. It is also an agricultural product, and by some measures, the largest cash crop in the United States.  Since marijuana prohibition laws were passed long before any regulations for cultivation were developed, states are facing an unprecedented challenge: regulate, for the first time ever, one of the country’s largest agricultural industries.

There are major regulatory challenges ahead, and how states respond to those challenges will shape the course of the marijuana industry.  At present there is a gap in understanding the regulatory challenges presented by marijuana agriculture, and the options states have to address them.  This Article identifies those challenges and the regulatory approaches most capable of addressing them.  The study begins by describing the existing state of marijuana agriculture regulations.  States are likely to find that the marijuana industry’s unique characteristics justify a tailored regulatory approach; relying on existing agricultural policies may be ineffectual or lead to perverse outcomes.  

Next, fundamental questions about the “marijuana fragmentation spectrum” are explored.  Will the industry come to be dominated by agricultural conglomerates mass-producing a marijuana commodity, as many have feared?   Or will governments and the industry adopt the appellation model favored by the wine industry, to protect local farmers and differentiate between products?  The major environmental impacts of marijuana agriculture are analyzed as well, including regulations that address water allocation, water quality, energy, organic certification, and crop insurance.  Finally, the study addresses power distribution trade-offs within marijuana agriculture regulation frameworks, including local vs. state, and consolidated vs. fragmented, regulatory authority dilemmas.  The findings suggest that responsible and sustainable marijuana agriculture can be fostered at the state level, but only if regulations are responsive to the unique and unprecedented challenges that marijuana agriculture presents.

August 3, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Why Florida has become such an interesting and important marijuana reform state to watch closely

MarijuanaThis new local article, headlined "Medical marijuana war heads to next battle," reports on various recent developments in Florida that reinforce my view that the Sunshine State has become in 2016 one of the most fascinating states to watch for both proponents and opponents of marijuana reform.  Here are some of the details:

Marijuana was sold legally in Florida for the first time this week since it was outlawed by the federal government in 1937.

In a staid Tallahassee storefront more akin to a doctor's office than a head shop, Dallas Nagy, a Tampa-area native with chronic seizures and muscle spasms, plunked down $60 for a non-euphoric strain of marijuana on Tuesday.  "I thank you for the hope of getting better," Nagy said at the opening of Trulieve, the first medical marijuana dispensary in the state.

The milestone, hailed by legalization activists, some doctors, owners of nascent pot nurseries and the parents of children with debilitating ailments, is really just the beginning of Florida's battle over marijuana laws.  Groups on both sides of the medical marijuana debate are battling it out over an amendment on the November ballot that would give access to marijuana with higher levels of THC — the chemical that creates a user's "high" — for a wider range of illnesses.

Anti-drug activists and law enforcement say the amendment would lead to de facto legalization of the drug. Amendment 2, as it will appear on the ballot, makes patients with "debilitating medical conditions" eligible – a vague term ripe for abuse, they say. "It's unlimited, so if you have headaches a doctor could say marijuana could alleviate your headache," said Christina Johnson, spokeswoman for Drug Free Florida, a group fighting the amendment.

Along with "debilitating conditions," the amendment states that patients with glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis would be eligible for medical marijuana.  The amendment doesn't specify in what form the drug could be sold.

The fight over Amendment 2 is already drawing big bucks on both sides.  Drug Free Florida got a boost this week in the form of an $800,000 contribution from Carol Jenkins Barnett, a major Publix shareholder and the daughter of the founder of the Lakeland-based grocery store chain.  The group has about $1.7 million in cash on hand.

On the other side is United for Care, a group funded and promoted with the help of Orlando trial attorney John Morgan, which rounded up signatures to get the amendment on the 2016 ballot.  A similar effort in 2014 failed, receiving 57 percent of the vote, 3 percent shy of the 60 percent required to pass.  Over the past two elections, the group has raised and spent more than $11.5 million.  A Quinnipiac poll from May showed 80 percent support for the amendment among likely voters.

The success or failure of Amendment 2 could have a huge impact on Florida's small, legally sanctioned marijuana industry, which is still in its infancy.  Jason Parnell, chief operating officer of Trulieve, said there are currently enough patients to serve and stay in business under the existing law, but the additional patients opened up by the amendment would allow them to offer lower prices.  "If you have a bigger pool you can have economies of scale, and we can do price compression," said Parnell, whose current low-THC products include oils, gelcaps and a smokable version....

But for people such as Tallahassee resident Rosalyn Deckerhoff, access to cannabis is essential to providing her son Barrett, 20, who suffers from epilepsy, some relief and a better life.  She's exhausted all other options. "We've done everything medically in the book for the last 20 years, including brain surgery," Deckerhoff said.

Two years ago she urged the Legislature to pass a bill allowing patients with cancer or debilitating diseases that cause frequent seizures like epilepsy to legally obtain a noneuphoric strain of marijuana known as "Charlotte's Web."  Because of red tape and legal challenges from growers and dispensaries seeking licenses to distribute the drug, it wasn't until this week that it became available to patients.

Subsequent laws will allow terminally ill patients access to marijuana with more potent tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main active chemical in pot.  To obtain medical pot in Florida, a patient must be diagnosed with a qualifying condition by a doctor and receive a recommendation for medical marijuana by a doctor registered with the state Office of Compassionate Use.

Doctors must complete a course to receive a license from the office. As of July 22, there were 82 doctors who have taken the eight-hour course, including 10 in Central Florida, according to the department. In addition, doctors recommending medical marijuana must have a minimum three-month history of treating the patient.

As this article details, Florida is already, in a sense, a medical marijuana state thanks to the work of the state legislature AND a majority of Florida voters two years ago voted in favor of the state having a much more "robust" form of medical marijuana legalized. But with a 60% vote requirement for approval, advocates for more robust reform will need to convince a super-majority of voters that existing state efforts are not good enough. And, unlike in some other states, it appears that both supporters and opponents of the proposed ballot reform will be able to run well-funded campaigns.

Moreover, Florida is historically a critical "swing state" in national elections, and I am certain the major Prez candidates know well that opposing a sizeable majority of Florida voters have already revealed their support for significant reform. Thus, I think it likely that all the candidates when campaigning in Florida will be asked about the state's 2016 ballot initiative, and it seems possible (perhaps likely?) that Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson will not be the only one to express support for it.

Stay tuned.

July 30, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Democrats formally approve platform calling for "pathway" to marijuana legalization

I continue to not know just how much import and impact official party platforms have. Nevertheless, I still think this press piece about formal events at the DNC, headlined "Democrats become first major party to back pathway to legalizing pot," is reporting on events that are a pretty big deal for marijuana reform advocates now and in the years ahead. Here is the official language from the party platform embraced by Dems:

“Because of conflicting federal and state laws concerning marijuana, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from the list of ‘Schedule 1’ federal controlled substances and to appropriately regulate it, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization. We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize it or provide access to medical marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact in terms of arrest rates for African-Americans that far outstrip arrest rates for whites, despite similar usage rates.”

Here is more from the press piece with reactions to these developments from leading marijuana reform advocates:

Legalization backers applauded the vote and said it reflected polls that found a majority of Americans wanted to legalize the drug.  “The fact that one of the country’s two major parties has officially endorsed a pathway to legalization is the clearest sign we’ve seen yet that marijuana reform is a mainstream issue at the forefront of American politics,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, a pro-legalization group. “A clear and growing majority of voters want to end prohibition.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, does not back across-the-board legalization at the federal level. The platform includes her often-used language that marijuana legalization should be left to the states, allowing them to be “laboratories of democracy.”  That’s good news for Washington state, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska, which that have already approved recreational marijuana, along with the District of Columbia....

Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group, said a growing number of state Democratic parties had already backed legalization in their platforms this year.  That includes California, which will vote on recreational marijuana in November.  “It’s not particularly surprising that the platform calls for rolling back the failed policy of marijuana prohibition, seeing as the vast majority of Democrats – and a majority of Americans – support making marijuana legal for adults,” he said. 

Despite the support, Tvert said he wouldn’t be surprised if the issue didn’t get much attention from speakers at the Democratic convention this week.  “The platform typically reflects the positions of most party members, but it does not necessarily reflect the political or policy priorities of candidates and party leaders,” he said.

July 28, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Illinois judge orders reconsideration of making migraines an eligible condition for medical marijuana in the state

Migraines-spousesAs reported in this Chicago Tribune article, in Illinois "a judge has ordered state officials to reconsider adding migraine headaches to the list of conditions that qualify a patient to buy" marijuana.  Here is more about this significant ruling:

Cook County Circuit Court Associate Judge Rita Novak overturned Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Nirav Shah's denial of a petition to add migraines to that list.  The judge ordered Shah to reconsider evidence presented to the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board before its members voted to recommend approval of marijuana to treat migraines.

The court ruling came in response to a suit filed by a man whose name was kept secret because he already has been using marijuana to treat his headaches, his attorneys said.  Since adolescence, the middle-age man has suffered migraines up to three times a week, lasting from several hours up to three days, attorney Robert Bauerschmidt said.

The man has tried triptans, the most common treatment for migraines, but they didn't work well.  He tried narcotic painkillers but had a bad reaction that keeps him from using them, the attorney said.  "He's been through everything," Bauerschmidt said. "Marijuana doesn't cure it, but he finds the pain less severe and believes the headaches are less frequent when he's using it."

Though federal law still prohibits marijuana possession, state law allows it for patients who have any of about 40 specific medical conditions, including cancer, AIDS or multiple sclerosis.  Patients may buy the pot only from state-approved dispensaries.

The latest ruling comes after another judge last month ordered the state to add post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying condition for medical pot.  That ruling has been rendered somewhat moot, since Gov. Bruce Rauner recently signed a law adding PTSD and terminal illness as qualifying conditions.  But taken together, the separate rulings by different judges suggest that judicial review may further expand the program.

Attorney Mike Goldberg, whose firm handled the two prior cases, has pending lawsuits asking to add six other conditions: irritable bowel syndrome, chronic postoperative pain, osteoarthritis, intractable pain, autism and polycystic kidney disease.  "It's a potential game-changer for the industry," Goldberg said.

But Annie Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Illinois attorney general's office, which represents the state in court, emphasized that the ruling does not require adding migraines to the list.  It instead orders the director to reconsider within the parameters of the law and the judge's findings.

Joe Wright, the former director of the state's medical cannabis program, agreed that the case is not a done deal. "I'm not sure that means you'd necessarily have to add it," he said.  "That means they have to look at it again in light of what the advisory board considered."  If migraines and other conditions are added, Wright said, "That would open up the patient population fairly sizably."...

If the director adds migraines as a qualifying condition, that could greatly enlarge the number of patients. Migraines are a widespread condition, occurring in about 16 percent of Americans, according to two surveys cited by the American Headache Society.  Because there is no widely accepted blood test or brain scan to verify migraines, they typically are diagnosed by medical history, symptoms and a physical and neurological examination, according to the Mayo Clinic.  Typically Migraines occur repeatedly to the same patient, involving moderate to severe head pain that last for hours or days, nausea or vomiting and sensitivity to noise and light.

July 22, 2016 in Court Rulings, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Arkansas voters now sure to consider (at least one) medical marijuana initiatives in November 2016

ArkThis AP article, headlined "It’s official: Arkansas will vote on medical marijuana in November," provides the interesting details on another state now sure to be considering marijuana reform through initiative this fall. Here are the dynamic details:

A proposal to legalize medical marijuana in Arkansas qualified for the November ballot on Thursday, putting the issue before the state’s voters for the second time in four years. The secretary of state’s office said it had verified at least 77,516 of the more than 117,000 signatures submitted for the proposed initiated act by Arkansans for Compassionate Care were from registered voters.

Initiated acts need at least 67,887 signatures, while constitutional amendments need at least 84,859. Friday is the deadline for groups to turn in signatures for their ballot measures.

Arkansas voters narrowly rejected a similar medical marijuana proposal in 2012, and this fall could face two competing legalization measures. Melissa Fults, campaign director for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, repeated her call for the sponsor of the competing proposal to abandon his efforts.

“It does complicate it tremendously if he does turn in because it’s going to greatly decrease our chances of either one passing,” Fults said. The measure from Fults’ group would allow patients with a range of medical conditions and a doctor’s recommendation to buy marijuana from dispensaries. Unlike the competing proposal, it would allow patients to grow their own marijuana if they don’t live near a dispensary.

David Couch, the sponsor of the competing measure, said he planned to submit petitions for his proposed constitutional amendment Friday morning and said he didn’t believe having two marijuana proposals on the ballot would doom either. “If you support medical marijuana and you believe that sick people should have this medicine, you should say vote for both,” Couch said. “That’s what I’m going to say.”

The conservative Family Council Action Committee, which campaigned against the marijuana proposal in 2012, said it would review the petitions for a potential legal challenge and was also considering challenging the proposal’s language in court. “This same issue was defeated in the election of 2012, and I believe the people of Arkansas are wise enough to see through this sham and vote it down again,” Jerry Cox, the committee’s executive director, said in a statement.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a former head of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, said he opposed the measure and urged members of the medical community to share concerns they may have about the legalization efforts. “I believe that while we want to provide medicine to anyone who needs it, this opens a lot of doors that causes more problems than it solves,” Hutchinson told reporters.

July 7, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

"Small businesses prepare for Ohio medical marijuana market months before regulations announced"

The title of this post is the headline of this lengthy new local article which gets started this way:

The rules for Ohio's medical marijuana growers and dispensaries are months away from being written, but entrepreneurs are already eyeing the future market here.

Dozens of marijuana and cannabis-related business names have been registered with the state since the legislature passed Ohio's medical marijuana law in late May. Existing Ohio companies are considering how they can service the marijuana industry. Companies working in legal marijuana states are planning to expand.

The coming months will likely be filled with medical marijuana conferences, workshops and panels for would-be marijuana business owners. But much of the preparation will be speculative, as crucial details -- such as the number of business licenses available and the criteria used to award them -- are unknown.

Ohio's medical marijuana law goes into effect Sept. 8 and requires the system to be fully operational by September 2018. The commerce department has until May 6, 2017, to issue rules and regulations for cultivators, and the rest of the rules must be set by October 2017.

But that's not stopping aspiring "potpreneurs" from getting a head start.

July 6, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

"Ohio’s New Medical Marijuana Industry Business, Politics, Law & You"

The title of this post is the name of this timely event scheduled for tomorrow afternoon on the campus of The Ohio State University.  I will be one of a number of speakers at an event being sponsored by the Ohio Cannabis Association. Here is the planned schedule for the event:

Wednesday, July 6th;  5:00pm – 8:00pm (Networking from 5-6. Program Begins Promptly at 6.)

The Ohio State University - Student Union - Great Hall Meeting Room 1739 N. High St, Columbus, OH 43210

Featuring leading experts on all aspects of the new industry…

State: State Sen. Kenny Yuko; State Rep. Kirk Schuring

National: John Hudak, Brookings Institute

Business: Andy Joseph, Apeks Supercritical; Jimmy Gould, Ohio House Medicinal Marijuana Task Force and GLA; Roberto Ryan, QC Infusion

Medical: Dr. Brian Santin, Ohio House Medicinal Marijuana Task Force; Janet Brenneman, Ohio Cannabis Nurses Association

Legal: Deb Tongren, Esq.; Douglas A. Berman, OSU Professor of Law

July 5, 2016 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Detailing the (disconcerting?) doctor dynamics in a state with (strict?) medical marijuana rules

This lengthy new Boston Globe article, headlined "Most Mass. doctors wary of approving marijuana use," reports on the distinctive and arguably disconcerting dynamics that have developed in the Bay State with respect to doctors making medical marijuana recommendations. Here are the highlights:

A small circle of physicians — 13, to be precise — has provided the vast preponderance of approvals needed by Massachusetts patients to gain access to medical marijuana, state records show, a pattern that underscores the continued growing pains of a new industry.  These doctors certified nearly three-quarters of the 31,818 patients who had received permission to use medical marijuana by early June.

The concentration of approvals in the hands of so few physicians is a story of both opportunity and fear.  For the baker’s dozen of doctors, medical marijuana certifications provide a robust stream of patients, who typically pay $200 out of pocket for an initial office visit.  But their grip on such a large share of patient certifications illustrates that many other physicians in the state are reluctant to sign off on patients using the drug, according to the Massachusetts Medical Society.

The hesitance reflects persistent concerns about the possible legal repercussions for their medical licenses if they prescribe a drug the federal government classifies as dangerous, with “no currently accepted medical use.”  It also underscores the lingering doubts about marijuana’s health risks and benefits, said Dr. James Gessner, president of the society.

These worries only intensified when state regulators in May and June yanked the licenses of two physicians accused of improperly certifying thousands of patients for marijuana use. Both suspended doctors worked in offices that specialize in issuing marijuana certificates. Some major teaching hospitals forbid their physicians from certifying patients for marijuana use, but in some cases, doctors have been circumventing restrictions by referring patients to clinics that specialize in granting certification....

State rules require physicians to complete one course about marijuana, including its side effects and signs of substance abuse, if they want to recommend the drug to patients.  Physicians then must register online with the state Health Department, which grants them permission to certify patients as eligible for medical marijuana use. Patients must also register with the online system to complete the certification process.

State regulations list nine diseases and conditions that can qualify a patient for marijuana use, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and Crohn’s disease, but also gives physicians wide latitude to recommend use for any other “debilitating condition,” such as nausea and pain....

One physician who is receiving scores of referrals is Dr. Jill Griffin, who opened a medical marijuana practice in Northampton in 2013.  State records show Griffin, 56, has certified the most patients in Massachusetts — 3,284 by early June.  Griffin’s attorney, Michael Cutler, said many of the certifications Griffin has issued were for patients referred to her by other physicians. Griffin, who directed the emergency department at one Springfield hospital and worked in the emergency department of another facility, is well known in the region, Cutler said.

“Almost all of the doctors out here are part of group practices, and for a long time, all of the group practices prohibited their doctors from writing marijuana certifications,” Cutler said. “So, the only way a patient could be certified, for virtually all the doctors out here, was to refer patients out of their practice.”

But state records suggest sentiment among doctors may be slowly changing.  The number of physicians registered with the state to certify patients for medical marijuana use has nearly doubled in the past year, to 150 — although that still represents only a tiny fraction of the more than 30,000 doctors practicing in the state.

July 3, 2016 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Some good hard questions in Ohio following passage of its medical marijuana reform

These two recent newspaper article raise two good and challenging questions concerning the policies and practicalities soon now to become reality when Ohio's medical marijuana reforms formally become law in the coming months:

June 23, 2016 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Women in Maryland marijuana industry savoring absence of a glass ceiling in new industry

WG_New_Logo_rgbRegular readers know that one  aspect of the burgeoning marijuana industry that I find especially interesting is the role that women can and will play within a new modern industry that has little legitimate business history and thus has little history of traditional gender discrimination in its businesses.  Against this backdrop, this lengthy new article from the Baltimore Sun caught my attention this weekend.  The piece is headlined "Women see no ceiling in Maryland medical marijuana industry," and here are excerpts:

Maryland's long-promised medical marijuana industry doesn't exist yet, and that's precisely why more than 60 women, mostly dressed like a PTA crowd, banded together there — to rise to the top before anyone gets in their way. "How vital are women to the success of the cannabis business in Maryland? If you're asking, I probably don't want to talk to you," said Megan Rogers, a co-founder of the Baltimore chapter of Women Grow and an applicant to open a dispensary. "We're here to ensure that the cannabis industry has no glass ceiling."

As the state considers hundreds of pending medical marijuana licenses, the women gathered to network, celebrating the opportunity to create an industry from scratch. Dozens of the organization's members have applied to grow marijuana or open dispensaries or processing businesses. Others plan to sell specialized marijuana containers, offer legal services, do product testing or provide event planning for women who secure a coveted license.

There is more collaboration than competition, the women say. There's no snatching of ideas or secretive cloaking of business plans, no assumptions that they need to get in line behind men to get ahead. "We have an opportunity to take an industry, from the ground up, and insert women in the upper echelons," said Carissa Cartalemi, a co-founder of the group and a holistic therapist who applied for a dispensary license with Rogers. "I do think there's something very feminine to that spirit of collaboration."

Women's marijuana business groups have grown by leaps and bounds as 25 states across the country have legalized some form of medical marijuana, and four states and the District of Columbia have approved recreational cannabis.

Women Grow began in Denver two years ago and now includes more than 45 chapters in the United States and Canada. Its conference in February attracted 1,300 people and was headlined by singer and marijuana activist Melissa Etheridge.

Women are much less likely to become entrepreneurs than men. In Maryland, women are half as likely as men to own their own businesses, according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurship, which tracks business activity across the country. A survey released this month showed women hold 91 of the 630 board seats of Maryland companies that trade on one of the three stock exchanges — less than 14 percent of board seats and well under the national average. Other new industries — including the booming tech field — have largely been dominated by men, who worked disproportionately in the academic fields that fed those industries.

But women in Maryland and across the country see a different landscape in the emerging cannabis industry, which was born out of the advocacy community that persuaded legislatures to legalize it. "This is an industry that was led by a movement, by both women and men," said Giadha Aguirre DeCarcer, a former venture capitalist who launched a Washington-based cannabis market research company. DeCarcer is familiar with Women Grow but not active in the Baltimore chapter.

"There are no barriers to entry, but also no glass ceiling," said DeCarcer, CEO and founder of New Frontier Financials. "There hasn't been time for a good-ol'-boys club to develop. … The culture is very different because it stems from a movement."

Jessica White, 48, runs a holistic health center in White Marsh and applied for four dispensary licenses and a kosher processing license — she can hold only one, but was trying to increase her chances of being selected from among the 811 applications for just 94 licenses. "My market is 65-plus, chronic pain, not candidates for surgeries," White said. "We're talking little old church ladies."

White attends meetings of several other medical cannabis organizations, too, but said the vibe is different with the Women Grow crowd. "In a lot of the other groups I'm friendly with, it's a bunch of old white guys," White said. "A lot of the men in the industry keep things to themselves. Here, it's 'I'm Jessica. I want to open a dispensary. What about you?'"...

Elkridge-based Cannaline sponsored a season's worth of Women Grow events, which allows its saleswoman, Carrie Kirk, to hand out free samples of the company's marijuana packaging options as attendees clink glasses of house wine. Kirk worked for 17 years in pharmaceutical sales and management but now works up and down the East Coast selling Cannaline's marketing products, custom odor-proof bags and child-resistant packaging.

Even though more states east of the Mississippi are launching medical marijuana markets, she said, it's very tightly regulated and the industry here feels very different than that on the West Coast. "We have to do things more conservatively here," she said. A Women Grow event allows her to reach a lot of potential customers in an industry that lacks access to traditional advertising.

In a back corner of the Women Grow event, former regulatory lawyer Leah Heise was holding court at the center of a ring two people deep, enthusiastically connecting people. An illness that would have been more easily treated with medical marijuana than opioids took her out of the workforce for more than a decade, she said. Now that a surgery alleviated the underlying cause of her debilitating pain from chronic pancreatitis, she's rejoined the working world and fashioned a new career as a mentor and attorney for companies trying to navigate Maryland's newest industry.

She's president of Chesapeake Integrated Health Institute, and says Women Grow offers not only camaraderie but also a resource she can't find elsewhere. "This is the only place where someone can come to learn anything. Anything!" she said. She turned her attention to a woman who spent her career working at spas but was looking for a way into the medical marijuana industry. Heise enthusiastically took her card. "Someone like her would be incredible as a dispensary manager," she said. "It's a whole new era, and the industry will be huge."

Some prior related posts:

June 18, 2016 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

New Drug Policy Alliance report highlights problems with access and data in New York medical marijuana program

DownloadEarlier this week the Drug Policy Alliance this notable new report detailing and lamenting that New York's medical marijuana program is too restrictive and that information about the program is not readily available.  This DPA press release reports on some of the report's findings, and here are excerpts from the press release:

The Drug Policy Alliance issued a report assessing the first four months on the state’s medical marijuana program.  The report is in response to demand for information in the face of the absence of all but the most limited public information from the New York State Department of Health.  The report, the first systematic assessment of the program so far and its impact on patient access, found patients and caregivers face significant barriers to accessing medical marijuana.

On January 7th 2016, New York became the 23rd state to rollout its medical marijuana program. The law, which was passed in June of 2014, took eighteen months to implement and has been criticized as being one of the most restrictive and burdensome programs in the country.  Since the program was launched, patients and advocates have been frustrated by numerous barriers to accessing the program, including difficulty finding participating physicians, trouble accessing dispensaries and medication, and affordability.

The Department of Health has released only limited data about how the program is performing, offering little more than updates on the number of patients and doctors who have completed registration applications. Working with Compassionate Care NY, the state’s largest grassroots organization of patients and caregivers, the Drug Policy Alliance surveyed 255 people who had sought to access the state’s medical marijuana program.

According to the report, one of most pressing problems is that patients are struggling to find health care providers who are participating in the program.  According to DOH, as of June 9th, only 593 physicians New York physicians registered to certify patients for medical marijuana – less than 1% of all physicians in New York. Because there is no publicly available list of participating physicians, patients are forced to cold-call doctors in hopes of finding one or go through social media or other potentially unreliable sources.

More than half of patients and caregivers surveyed in the DPA report had not yet found a doctor to certify them, and among those, 3 out of 5 have been trying for 3 to 4 months to locate a registered physician.

Geographic inaccessibility is another barrier compounding problems of patient access to medicine.  Under the law, only five producers are licensed to grow medical marijuana in New York, and each can only operate 4 dispensaries.  This means that for a state of almost 20 million people and 54,000 square miles, there are only 20 dispensaries allowed (of which only 17 dispensaries have opened, to date). Patients, many of whom are very sick and disabled, must travel hours in some cases to get to a dispensary.  According to findings from the survey, 27% of registered patients/caregivers travelled for 1 to 5 hours to access a dispensary, while nearly 2 out of 5 reported that the dispensary they visited did not carry the specific kind of medical marijuana that was recommended to them by their physician.

Another major finding of the report is the unaffordability of medicine.  For respondents who had obtained medicine, 70% indicated that their monthly cost would be $300 and above, and more than 3 in 4 patients and caregivers who purchased medicine from a dispensary, stated that they would not be able to afford the monthly cost of medicine.

DPA’s report calls on the New York State legislature to pass bills currently pending in Albany that would amend the Compassionate Care Act, New York’s medical marijuana law, and improve access to medicine for those in need....  “New Yorkers deserve more transparency and information about how the state’s medical marijuana program is performing,” said Julie Netherland, PhD, of the Drug Policy Alliance and Compassionate Care NY. “Our data confirms what we have heard from patients and caregivers for months – New York’s program is not easily accessible, and even for patients who manage access the program, most cannot afford the medication.  We urge the legislature to act quickly and pass these bills to improve the program so patients in need can get relief.”

June 16, 2016 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)