Other business opportunities include advanced delivery services for homebound patients. However, there are still some remaining hurdles. Local jurisdictions could limit sales and there could be some barriers to doctors who want to participate. Plus, there is uncertainty surrounding the new Federal administration. Still, it's full steam ahead for medical marijuana in Florida unless someone says otherwise.
Friday, January 13, 2017
This new press article, headlined "Study Links Medical Marijuana to Fewer Traffic Fatalities: The health and public safety concerns that kept marijuana illegal for generations are proving unfounded where it is now legal," reports on more good news emerging from public health research in medical marijuana states. Here are the details (with links from the original):
A new study from Columbia University found that traffic fatalities have fallen in seven states where medicinal cannabis is legal and that, overall, states where medical marijuana is legal have lower traffic fatality rates than states were medical marijuna remains illegal.
The study found that “medical marijuana laws were associated with immediate reductions in traffic fatalities in those aged 15 to 24 and 25 to 44 years, and with additional yearly gradual reductions in those aged 25 to 44 years.” Medical marijuana is now legal in 28 states.
Seven researchers from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health worked on the study, with two more researchers from the University of California at Davis and Boston University. They published the study in the American Journal of Public Health.
The researchers used traffic accident data from 1985 to 2014, about 1.2 million accidents. They focused on the relationship between medical marijuana laws and the number of fatal traffic accidents, examining each state with legalized medical marijuana separately.
They also looked at the relationship between the existence of medical marijuana dispensaries and traffic accidents, finding a reduction in the number of fatal accidents among those ages 25 to 44 in areas where dispensaries were open.
The researchers concluded that both medical marijuana legalization and dispensaries were, on average, associated with a reduction in traffic fatalities, particularly among drivers 25 to 44-years-old.
They suggested a few possibilities for this conclusion.
- Those under the influence of marijuana are more aware of their impaired condition than those under the influence of alcohol and may more often make the choice not to drive.
- More people have replaced going out to drink in bars with partaking of marijuana at home, reducing the number of impaired drivers on the road.
- An increased police presence in areas where medical marijuana is legal could have led to fewer people attempting to drive while under the influence of marijuana.
“Instead of seeing an increase in fatalities, we saw a reduction, which was totally unexpected,” Julian Santaella-Tenorio, the lead researcher on the study, told Reuters.
The title of this post is the headline of this lengthy new article from The Hill. Here are excerpts:
Legislators in more than a dozen states have introduced measures to loosen laws restricting access to or criminalizing marijuana, a rush of legislative activity that supporters hope reflects a newfound willingness by public officials to embrace a trend toward legalization.
The gamut covered by measures introduced in the early days of legislative sessions underscores the patchwork approach to marijuana by states across the country — and the possibility that the different ways states treat marijuana could come to a head at the federal Justice Department, where President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general is a staunch opponent of legal pot.
Some states are taking early steps toward decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. In his State of the State address this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said he will push legislation to remove criminal penalties for non-violent offenders caught with marijuana. “The illegal sale of marijuana cannot and will not be tolerated in New York State, but data consistently show that recreational users of marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety,” Cuomo’s office wrote to legislators. “The unnecessary arrest of these individuals can have devastating economic and social effects on their lives.”
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said during his campaign he would support decriminalizing marijuana. Legislation has passed the Republican-led state House in recent years, though it died when Sununu’s predecessor, now-Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), said she did not support the move.
Several states are considering allowing marijuana for medical use. Twenty-eight states already have widespread medical marijuana schemes, and this year legislators in Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah have introduced bills to create their own versions. Republicans in control of state legislatures in most of those states are behind the push.
Legislators in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Delaware, New Mexico and New Jersey will consider recently introduced measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
There is little consensus on just how to approach legalization: Three different bills have been introduced in Connecticut’s legislature. Two have been introduced in New Mexico, and three measures to allow medical pot have been filed in Missouri.
In 2016, voters in four states — Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and California — joined Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Colorado in passing ballot measures legalizing pot for recreational purposes. Those efforts, marijuana reform advocates say, have lifted the stigma legislators might have felt. “Now that voters in a growing number of states have proven that this is a mainstream issue, many more lawmakers feel emboldened to champion marijuana reform, whereas historically this issue was often looked at as a marginalized or third-rail issue,” said Tom Angell, chairman of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority.
Just because measures get introduced does not mean they will advance. In many cases, Angell said, it is governors — Democrats and Republicans alike — who stand in the way. Though Democrats control the Connecticut legislature, Gov. Dan Malloy (D) has made clear he is no supporter of legalized pot. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) has not said he would veto a legalization bill, though he is far less friendly to the idea than his predecessor, Democrat Peter Shumlin.
In New Mexico, Gov. Susana Martinez (R) has called decriminalizing marijuana a “horrible, horrible idea.” Democratic legislators are considering a plan to put legal marijuana to voters, by proposing an amendment to the state constitution. If New Jersey legislators advance a legalization law, they would run into an almost certain veto from Gov. Chris Christie (R).
While 14 state legislatures have legalized marijuana for medical use, no state legislature has passed a measure legalizing pot for recreational use. “Every year, we’ve seen legalizers throw everything at the wall to see what might stick,” said Kevin Sabet, who heads the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “I’m not surprised by any means. I don’t think there’s much appetite to legalize through the legislature.”...
In Washington, the incoming Trump administration has sent signals that encourage, and worry, both supporters and opponents of looser pot rules. The Obama Justice Department issued a memorandum to U.S. attorneys downplaying the importance of prosecuting crimes relating to marijuana in states where it is legal.
Trump’s nominee to head the next Justice Department, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), has been sharply critical of states that have legalized marijuana. In his confirmation hearings this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions said current guidelines, known as the Cole memo, are “truly valuable.”
Marijuana industry advocates seized on those comments in hopes of locking Sessions into maintaining the status quo. “The current federal policy, as outlined by the Cole memo, has respected carefully designed state regulatory programs while maintaining the Justice Department’s commitment to pursuing criminals and prosecuting bad actors,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.
Sunday, January 8, 2017
This local article, headlined "Judge: Insurance company must pay for medical marijuana for injured N.J. worker," reports on what would seem to be a significant ruling from an administrative law judge in New Jersey. Here are the details from the press report:
In what could be a precedent-setting decision, a New Jersey administrative law judge has ordered an insurance company to pay for medical marijuana for an injured worker who suffers from lingering neuropathic pain in his left hand after an accident while using a power saw at an 84 Lumber outlet in 2008.
Judge Ingrid L. French took testimony from the worker, a 39-year-old Egg Harbor Township man, and a Cherry Hill psychiatrist/neurologist who said the marijuana treatment was appropriate because it would allow the patient to reduce his prescription opiate use and lower the risk of serious side effects.
Andrew Watson was seeking reimbursement for marijuana he had purchased at a dispensary in his Atlantic County township over three months in 2014 after enrolling in the state's program. He also sought a ruling that would allow him to be covered for the treatment in the future.
French issued her opinion last month, saying "the evidence presented in these proceedings show that the petitioner's 'trial' use of medicinal marijuana has been successful. While the court is sensitive to the controversy surrounding the medicinal use of marijuana, whether or not it should be prescribed for a patient in a state where it is legal to prescribe it is a medical decision that is within the boundaries of the laws in the state."
The opinion did not state the reimbursement owed Watson, although his attorney said the marijuana itself cost less than $1,000 because it was only three ounces.
John Gearney, a Mount Laurel lawyer who writes a weekly blog on workers' compensation cases, says the written ruling may be the first in New Jersey to address whether an insurer should pay for marijuana. "It's not binding, but it's really an important decision. There are about 50 workers' compensation judges in the state, and they will read it and see what the judge thought when a case like it comes before them," he said.
Gearney, of the Capehart Scatchard firm, said the only other court ruling he had heard of involving medical marijuana and workers' compensation came when a New Mexico appeals court decided a few years ago that an injured worker was entitled to marijuana treatment. In that case, the court ruled that marijuana was "reasonable and necessary" for an injured worker who had reported that traditional treatments had not alleviated his pain.
John Carvelli, a Mount Laurel lawyer who represented Gallagher Bassett Services, a third-party administrator for 84 Lumber's insurance company, said in an email Thursday: "With respect to the recent decision, we respect the court's decision. . . . At this juncture there is no plan to appeal."...
Philip Faccenda, a Cherry Hill lawyer who represented Watson, said the decision might benefit insurance companies, too. "We believe this will offer very powerful cost savings with respect to the entire workers' compensation industry in New Jersey. . . . More costly pharmaceuticals can be reduced and medical marijuana would be a less expensive treatment modality," he said.
Faccenda said that his client stopped using marijuana in 2014 because he could not afford to continue paying for it. The insurance carrier continued to pay for his use of opiates to treat his pain. The decision means Watson can resume using marijuana, he said.
French wrote in her eight-page decision that Watson's testimony was credible. "He testified that the effects of the marijuana, in many ways, is not as debilitating as the effects of the Percocet (which is how he refers to his prescriptions for Endocet or Oxycodone). . . . Ultimately, the petitioner was able to reduce his use of oral narcotic medication. . . . The court found the petitioner's approach to his pain management needs has been cautious, mature, and overall, he is exceptionally conscientious in managing his pain."
French also wrote that Watson's expert witness, Cherry Hill psychiatrist Edward H. Tobe, described the benefits Watson can obtain by using marijuana and also described the risks of taking opiates. "Opiates can shut down breathing (whereas) marijuana cannabinoids won't . . . Marijuana does not affect the mid-brain. The mid-brain is critical in controlling respiration, heart rate, many of the life-preserving elements," he said, according to an excerpt of his testimony that was included in the judge's opinion.
Tobe said using marijuana, combined with less opiate use, would likely benefit Watson and help him "achieve better function." French said the evidence convinced her that Watson was entitled to participate in the marijuana program and that doing so was "reasonable and necessary" to relieve his continuing pain.
I cannot find the ruling discussed here on line, but more about the ruling can be gleaned from this posting at the NJ Workers' Comp Blog.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
As regular readers know, 2016 was a banner year for marijuana reform. Specifically, in addition to eight states in which voters enacted significant recreational or medical marijuana reforms by ballot initiatives, two important "rust-belt, swing-states," Ohio and Pennsylvania, enacted medical marijuana reforms via the traditional legislative process. Here is a round-up of some recent notable news from a number of these states:
From Alaska here, "Downtown Anchorage retail marijuana store opens up shop"
From California here, "Legalization is opening doors for new marijuana entrepreneurs. Are we about to see a pot gold rush?"
From Florida here, "Medical marijuana questions linger after Amendment 2"
From Maine here, "Recount bid ends, clearing way for legal marijuana in Maine"
From Montana here, "Hundreds of patients apply for medical marijuana after court ruling"
From Nevada here, "How will legalized recreational marijuana affect the gaming industry?"
From Ohio here, "Survey finds Ohio physicians not yet sold on medical marijuana"
From Pennsylvania here, "Pa. senator says he used medical marijuana despite ban"
Thursday, December 15, 2016
This local article, headlined "Ohio medical marijuana dispensary, physician rules released," suggests that medical marijuana advocates might feel a bit warmer on a cold winter day in central Ohio due to the release of proposed details for the implementation of the state's medical marijuana law. Here are the basic details:
Up to 40 medical marijuana dispensaries would be licensed in Ohio under draft rules released Thursday morning. Would-be dispensary owners would have to pay a $5,000 application fee and an $80,000 license fee every other year. Applicants must show they have liquid assets totaling at least $250,000.
Dispensaries would have to hire a pharmacist, nurse, physician or physician's assistant to train employees, develop patient educational materials and be on-call or on the premises during operating hours. Dispensary employees would also have to, by law, report all medical marijuana purchases to the state controlled substances database, OARRS, within 5 minutes of dispensing a product.
A separate set of rules released Thursday requires doctors to take two hours of continuing education classes about medical marijuana as one of several requirements to become certified to recommend marijuana to patients. Certified physicians are barred from owning a dispensary or other medical marijuana business.
The Ohio Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee will review the rules at its meeting Thursday. Public comment will be collected on both physician and dispensary rules until Jan. 13, 2017.
Ohio's medical marijuana law allows patients with 20 medical conditions to buy and use marijuana if recommended by a doctor. The law prohibits smoking and growing marijuana at home. The law left most of the regulatory details, including how to license growers and register patients, to the Ohio Department of Commerce, Ohio State Board of Pharmacy and Ohio State Medical Board to decide over the next year.
The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy drafted the dispensary rules, and the medical board developed the guidelines for physicians.
The proposed Ohio dispensary rules (which run 66 pages) are available at this link.
The proposed Ohio physician rules (which run 13 pages) are available at this link.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
Are Rhode Island and other New England states now sure to follow Massachusetts on the path the marijuana legalization?
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this local article headlined "R.I., Mass. marijuana markets intertwined: It's one reason legalization in Rhode Island is seen as inevitable." Here are excerpts:
If you want a sense of the connections between the Massachusetts and Rhode Island marijuana markets and the growth that entrepreneurs imagine, look no further than Rhode Island's first approved marijuana cultivator.
Medici Products and Solutions Inc., of Warwick, hopes to have a final license in hand by the end of the year. Its owners, John M. Rogue and Christopher E. Roy, have been selling marijuana to the state's three medical dispensaries as caregivers in a joint grow for two years.
Roy, a retired Woonsocket police officer, has been involved even longer, selling through a separate company, Grow Smart Solutions. With the state shutting down caregiver sales to dispensaries on Jan. 1 and converting to a licensed commercial-grower system, the pair needed a license to keep doing business. State startup fees for a 10,000-square-foot facility, the smallest category: $25,000.
But that's a drop in the bucket compared to their plans in Massachusetts. Rogue and Roy have three medical dispensary and cultivation applications pending in the Bay State under the name Hope Heal Health Inc. They've already received provisional approval for a flagship site on West Street in Fall River. The investment they'll need to make in the building they hope to open next year: $4 million to $7 million, according to Rogue.
Massachusetts documents show the company's projected revenues for the first year at $5.3 million, with $3.1 million in expenses. They expect to sell 952 pounds of medical marijuana at $350 an ounce. "I saw this as an opportunity where we could provide to patients the medicine they need," said Rogue, 65, of Warren. "... My wife passed away from cancer. My partner's mother passed away from cancer. We're just trying to give back."
On Thursday, the pair will be at a North Attleboro selectmen's meeting, seeking town approval for a second cultivation site. They're eyeing Berkley for a third site, said Rogue, whose career before marijuana ranged from technology company management to real estate development. In all matters in Massachusetts, the pair are represented by former Fall River Mayor William Flanagan.
And with Massachusetts voting to legalize marijuana last month, Rogue said the company is interested in moving into the recreational market as well. He acknowledged there are many unknowns, but the ballot question appears to give those who have opened or applied for medical dispensaries preference when recreational sales begin, possibly by 2018.
Massachusetts, which has roughly double Rhode Island's population of marijuana patients, at 33,000, currently has nine medical dispensaries. Another 67 applications for dispensaries, cultivation and processing sites, including Hope Heal Health in Fall River, have received provisional approval....
As for Medici's future in Rhode Island, Rogue — like so many others — says legalization here is inevitable. If not this year, then the next, was his guess. At a Publick Occurrences forum co-hosted by The Journal last Monday, 84 percent of the audience members polled said it was just a matter a time before the state legalizes marijuana.
In an interview last month, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello noted that, given Massachusetts' legalization, soon Rhode Island will have "a lot of the concerns that marijuana creates" and "none of the revenues to help us address that." Asked if Rogue will be up on Smith Hill pushing for movement this year, he said he'll leave that to the membership. "It's going to happen," he said.
December 11, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, December 10, 2016
In the run-up to the November 2016 election, I suggested that Florida's vote over a significant medical marijuana ballot initiative could be as important as any of the recreational marijuana reform votes taking place in other states. This new Forbes article, headlined "Florida Medical Marijuana Sales Could Rival Colorado By 2020," reinforces my view. Here are excerpts (with links from the original):
Colorado and California may be ground zero for medical marijuana, but Florida could quickly catch up. A new report from New Frontier Data with market data provided by Arcview Market Research projects that Florida's market will grow to $1.6 billion by 2020 at a compound annual growth rate of 140%. That would make it half the size of California's projected $2.6 billion market and top the projected $1.5 billion medical marijuana market for Colorado.
Florida voters legalized medical marijuana during this past election with more than 70% of the vote. Florida has the fifth-highest median age and is one of the most popular places to retire in the country. It is considered to be well-positioned to serve the aging population with medical cannabis products. The New Frontier report believes that Florida could end up becoming 7.5% of the total legal U.S. cannabis market and 14% of the medical marijuana market by 2020.
“Florida has the potential to be one of the largest medical markets in the country. The state is home to the nation's largest percentage of people 65 and older, a demographic for whom chronic pain and catastrophic illnesses are commonplace and expensive to treat. Amendment 2 gives this large patient pool access to legal cannabis as an alternative therapy to their diverse medical needs,” said New Frontier Data Founder & CEO Giadha DeCarcer.
Troy Dayton of The Arcview Group said, “The opportunity for good jobs, tax money and wealth creation created by Amendment 2 passing cannot be understated. And, thankfully, seriously ill patients will no longer need to go to high school parking lots or drug dealers to get their medicine.” Dayton also noted that cannabis entrepreneurs are pretty excited at their prospects in the state.
One example of this is the decision by High There!, a social media site that caters to the cannabis crowd, to move from Colorado to Florida. “When we launched 18 months ago, we felt Denver was the right city to be home to High There!, as it was a legal state. But with Florida legalizing medical marijuana, we realized the opportunity was really in our home state, and High There! could be a model of the economic impact a legal marijuana market can bring to a region,” said co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Darren Roberts.High There! is bringing jobs with it as it moves its headquarters back to the founders home state. The company plans to add positions in operations, and marketing in the coming months, and continues to add strategic partners as the company solidifies itself as a leading technology platform for the cannabis community. The company wants to promote accessibility of medical marijuana and has partnered with United For Care, the largest organization that worked to pass Amendment 2....
December 10, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, December 8, 2016
The title of this post is the headline of this effective new Time magazine article. I recommend the piece in full, and here are some key excerpts and major headings:
With Donald Trump nominating Cabinet members who have spoken out against legal marijuana, some are arguing that the war on drugs may make a comeback. But while there’s reason for anxiety among those selling recreational marijuana legally in states like Colorado and Washington, an all-out war remains unlikely.
Experts say that trying to undo legalization at this point would come with serious economic and political hurdles. “It’s certainly come so far,” says Sam Kamin, a marijuana law expert at the University of Denver, “that it can’t be undone without a heavy cost.” Others are even more skeptical. Says Mike Vitiello, a marijuana law expert at the University of the Pacific, “It’s kind of like illegal immigration: You can’t build a wall high enough.”
Here are seven reasons that it would be hard to stop what the states have started.
Waging a war on pot would go against the will of many voters.
“It would be a very blatant finger to the voters,” says the Drug Policy Alliance’s Amanda Reiman. In November, voters in eight states cast their ballots for some form of marijuana legalization. That means that medical marijuana is now legal in 28 states and recreational marijuana is legal in eight, including the nation’s most populous: California. With that powerhouse on board, a total of about one quarter of the population lives in a place where voters have decided that adults should be able to consume cannabis much the same way they consume alcohol. And all but six other states have legalized a non-psychoactive form of cannabis known as CBD, which people use to treat conditions like juvenile epilepsy.
Public opinion on marijuana is going in the opposite direction. ...
Trump himself has said he supports medical marijuana and that states should handle the question of whether to legalize. ...
It does not seem high on his list of priorities. ...
Waging a war costs money. ...
There’s a lot of money in marijuana these days and the prospect of much more in the future.
If legal marijuana markets didn’t exist tomorrow, that would mean the shuttering of hundreds of small businesses and the loss of thousands of jobs. It would buoy the black market. And it would also make for a lot of unhappy investors. The market for legal marijuana in America is already worth an estimated $7 billion and, according to market research firm ArcView, it will be worth more than $20 billion by 2020. While many bigwig venture capitalists and corporations are still wary of writing checks because of prohibition, others are proving eager to cash in on the “green rush.” Among them is even a member of Trump’s transition team, Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel. “There’s a huge amount of capital formation,” says Vitiello. “There are literally billions of dollars of investment in these gray market establishments.”
The extent of federal government’s authority over these matters is unclear.
December 8, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, 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)
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Regular readers of this blog know that one of the most encouraging pieces of modern marijuana research comes from the growing evidence suggesting that deaths from opioid overdoses are lower in states that have functional medical marijuana programs. (See prior discussions here and here and here.) For that reason, when I see this new article from my local paper, headlined "Ohio leads nation in overdose deaths," I immediately think it is time for all Ohio officials to try to shift the state's new medical marijuana law into high gear. Here is the ugly deadly data (which actually is based only on 2014 fatalities):
In a grim statistic that surprises no one close to the problem, Ohio leads the nation in opioid overdose deaths, a new report shows. Along with the overall category, Ohio also had the country's most deaths related to heroin: One in 9 heroin deaths across the U.S. happened in Ohio. The Buckeye State also recorded the most deaths from synthetic opioids: About 1 in 14 U.S. deaths.
In all the categories, Ohio easily surpassed states with larger populations. According to state-by-state statistics compiled by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2,106 opioid overdoses were reported in Ohio in 2014, which was 7.4 percent of the 28,647 deaths reported nationwide that year. California ranked second with 2,024 deaths and New York was third with 1,739.
The statistics are troubling but probably aren’t news to many law enforcement officials, treatment providers and families of addicts in Ohio who have seen the number of overdose deaths shoot up every year lately. Ohio’s status as the nation’s OD capital may continue. The state’s overdose deaths rocketed to 3,050 last year and are expected to burst past that number in 2016.
The Kaiser analysis, compiled from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information, showed Ohio had the highest number of deaths from synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanil, with 590 deaths out of 5,544 nationally, or 7.4 percent. Finally, Ohio also had the dubious distinction of having the most heroin deaths in 2014, 1,208 of 10,574 nationally, or 11.4 percent, the Kaiser statistics showed.
Tellingly, the MUCH bigger states of California and New York both have medical marijuana programs (though New York's is still in its infancy), and I suspect that marijuana access is generally greater in a number of other larger prohibition states (e.g., Texas and Florida) relative to Ohio. Critically, I am not asserting that marijuana reform alone is a magic solution to opioid overdose problems or even that Ohio's new medical marijuana program will make a major difference in this arena. But I am asserting that, at a time of a deadly opioid crisis that has only gotten worse and worse each year, state officials ought to be embracing any and every public policy response that research suggests might be of help. Marijuana reform would seem to be on any serious list of public policy responses that research suggests might be of help in this time of crisis.
Some prior related posts:
Saturday, November 26, 2016
The question in the title of this post was the headline of this recent New York Times article, which included these excerpts:
For businesses and insurers, a string of ballot victories this month for marijuana advocates are adding to an intensifying conundrum about the drug and issues such as insurance coverage, employee drug testing and workplace safety.... “We are entering this conflict between a social policy decision and a workplace that is highly regulated,” said Alex Swedlow, the chief executive of the California Workers’ Compensation Institute, a research organization.
A major part of the predicament centers on unclear science about the benefits of marijuana or the dozens of compounds, known as cannabinoids, that are found in the plant. For its part, the Food and Drug Administration has approved only a synthetic version of a cannabinoid and a similar drug for narrow uses, such as to treat nausea in chemotherapy patients or to stimulate the appetites of patients with AIDS. Typically, health insurers will pay for marijuana-related drugs only for F.D.A.-approved uses.
But state medical marijuana laws usually give doctors permission to recommend marijuana to a patient with a “debilitating” condition, a phrase that can encompass problems including glaucoma, cancer and chronic pain. Usually, patients pay for the drug themselves and several states have explicitly exempted workplace compensation insurers for covering such costs.
But as a result of recent state court rulings in New Mexico, workplace insurers there are required to pay for marijuana-based treatments if they are recommended by a doctor. And lower courts in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Michigan have issued rulings directing workplace insurers to do so. The number of patients receiving such coverage is small. And because marijuana is illegal under federal law, insurers paying for the drug must use a financial workaround to avoid violations. One strategy is to reimburse patients for their costs rather than make a direct payment to a marijuana dispensary....
Despite the push toward legalization, few employers have dropped marijuana from the list of drugs for which employees are tested, compounds that typically include opioids, amphetamines and cocaine... As marijuana legalization expands, there are also concerns about its effect on workplace safety. Some studies suggest that marijuana use can impair a person’s judgment, though little data exists to compare the effect with that of other drugs like opioids.
In states where recreational use is allowed, the problem for employers becomes one of determining when an employee used marijuana, because detectable levels of it remain in the body for days afterward. As a result, employers must use more subjective observations to judge whether an employee has become impaired from using marijuana while at work, said Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that supports legalization.
As for Mr. Vialpando, the disabled worker in Santa Fe, he and his wife say they have all the evidence they need that medical marijuana works. Mr. Vialpando said that during the decade he used opioids, he withdrew from his family and friends, preferring to spend time by himself, watching television. He lost interest in food and developed sleep apnea — his wife used to wake up terrified at night because it appeared that he was dying.
These days, he smokes about four marijuana cigarettes daily. He said he had gained weight, enjoyed talking again and had resumed working on hobbies at home. His wife, Margaret, said that she hoped President-elect Donald J. Trump, when he takes office, will make marijuana a legal drug by changing how it is regulated. “I feel like I’ve gotten my husband back,” she said. “His personality has come back to the person that he used to be.”
November 26, 2016 in Employment and labor law issues, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Responding to election results, NFL Players Association moving forward on studying marijuana for pain relief
As many like to say, elections have consequences. And this new Washington Post article highlights one really interesting and surprisingly quick consequence of all the marijuana election results. The lengthy article is headlined "As more states legalize marijuana, NFLPA to study potential as a pain-management tool," and here are excerpts:
In the aftermath of a new set of states legalizing marijuana use in the national elections, the NFL Players Association said Wednesday it is forming a committee to actively study the possibility of allowing players to use marijuana as a pain-management tool.
The union is forming an NFL players pain management committee that will study players’ use of marijuana as a pain-management mechanism, among other things, though the union has not yet determined if an adjustment to the sport’s ban on marijuana use is warranted.
“Marijuana is still governed by our collective bargaining agreement,” George Atallah, the NFLPA’s assistant executive director of external affairs, said in a phone interview Wednesday. “And while some states have moved in a more progressive direction, that fact still remains. We are actively looking at the issue of pain management of our players. And studying marijuana as a substance under that context is the direction we are focused on.”
A growing push from players within the sport, plus an ongoing national medical conversation over the benefits of marijuana and the dangers of opiate-based painkillers, have increased scrutiny on the league’s rules that ban the drug. This also comes as voters in California, Nevada and Massachusetts approved recreational marijuana use Tuesday, joining four other states and Washington, D.C., in enacting similar laws. Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota voters legalized medical marijuana use, bringing the total of states with such measures to more than two dozen.
But marijuana use remains prohibited under the drug policy collectively bargained between the NFL and the NFLPA, and both parties would need to agree to any changes to that policy. Players are tested for marijuana and can be fined or suspended without pay for positive or missed tests. The union’s contemplation of approving marijuana as a pain-management mechanism for players had begun before Tuesday’s voting.
Some players, including former Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Eugene Monroe, argue that marijuana is safer than the painkillers commonly used by players and its use should be permitted by the sport for pain-management purposes....
Some contend that the increasing number of states to legalize marijuana use should impact the NFL’s view. “There is no health and safety reason for marijuana being on the banned list and now the legal rationale has crumbled,” a person on the players’ side of the sport said Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.
Some medical experts are also advocating for cannabis-based treatment over some current painkillers, noting the addiction and overdose potential of opioids. In 2014, 19,000 deaths were attributed to overdoses from prescription pain medication, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Prescription painkillers have also been cited as a gateway to heroin use.
“In my mind, there’s no comparison if we just started from scratch in the year 2016 and looked newly at which class of drugs worked better to treat pain and side-effect profile up to and including death, in the case of opioids,” Daniel Clauw, a University of Michigan professor who has performed studies comparing opioids and cannabis, told the Post in June. “You put the two next to each other, and there really is no debate which is more effective to treat pain. You would go the cannabinoid route instead of the opiate route.”
Cannabidiol, or CBD, an anti-inflammatory extracted from cannabis, could potentially help players as a preventative measure against one of the most pressing issues facing the NFL: concussions. Lester Grinspoon, a professor emeritus at Harvard and one of the first medical marijuana researchers, said in an interview with the Post earlier this year that “evidence shows CBD is neuroprotective. I would have each individual take a capsule an hour or two before they play or practice. It’s better than nothing.”...
The current collective bargaining agreement between the league and union runs through 2020. But the two sides review the sport’s drug policies annually and sometimes make adjustments. In September 2014, the league and union agreed to raise the threshold for what constitutes a positive test for marijuana from 15 nanograms per milliliter to 35 nanograms per milliliter. A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram....
The league has come under fire recently for the length of suspensions given for marijuana use compared to other violations, such as the initial suspensions for domestic violence incidents assessed to then-New York Giants kicker Josh Brown (one game) earlier this season and then-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (two games) in 2014....
Gabriel Feldman, the director of the sports law program at Tulane University, said the NFL and NFLPA face a practical and perhaps political decision about marijuana, but not one of compliance with shifting state laws. “There are substances on the banned substances list that are not illegal,” Feldman said in a phone interview. “The league and the Players Association can make the determination under the CBA that substances that are legal can be on the banned substances list. . . . [Conversely the league] doesn’t have to test for it just because it’s illegal.
“The league is certainly not bound by the laws of individual states in terms of whether they test or don’t test. There are some who might say that alcohol should be a banned substance even though it’s legal. Ultimately it’s up to the league and the players to decide.”
The momentum of the marijuana-legalization movement potentially could influence the NFL’s thinking, Feldman said. “It may,” Feldman said. “I would think that both the league and the players are continuing to study the issue and continuing to study whether it makes sense. Certainly as the laws change, that might inform their decision and we may see action. [But] the league also has a uniformity issue. Even if the federal prohibition is lifted and it’s legal in some states and illegal in other states, the NFL might have an interest in maintaining uniformity in its policy.”
November 9, 2016 in Employment and labor law issues, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Sports, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Though I have "called" victories for medical marijuana initiatives in Florida and in North Dakota, the smaller number of votes in and the closeness of the votes in Arkansas and Montana preclude me from conclusively concluding that tonight will be a clean sweep for all the state medical marijuana initiatives. But, as Tuesday turns to Wednesday here in the Eastern Time Zone, the election numbers from Arkansas here and from Montana here suggest that Election 2016 was a big one for medical marijuana reform in a lot of red and deep red states.
As of 8:30pm ET, this Florida election results page shows medical marijuana reform leading by over a 70% to 30% margin with about 8.5 million votes counted. This reality is sure to be overshadowed by other election results today, including other marijuana ballot votes in other states, but I think this could be the biggest news of the night for moving the needle on federal marijuana reform.
UPDATE: As of 10:30pm, with more than 9 million votes in, the medical marijuana reform amendment is winning 71.25% to 28.75%.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
As reported in this new AP piece, headlined "Arkansas Court Disqualifies 2nd Medical Marijuana Proposal," a significant state Supreme Court ruling today seems likely to have a significant impact on marijuana reform voting in The Natural State. Here are the details:
The Arkansas Supreme Court has disqualified a medical marijuana proposal from the November ballot less than two weeks before the election and with thousands of votes already cast, but voters will still be able to consider a competing plan.
In a 5-2 ruling Thursday, the court sided with opponents of the proposed initiated act — known as Issue 7 — that would have allowed patients with certain medical conditions and a doctor's recommendation to purchase marijuana from dispensaries. The proposal was one of two medical marijuana proposals on the ballot, and justices earlier this month rejected a challenge to a competing measure.
The ruling comes after nearly 142,000 people have already cast ballots through early voting, which began Monday in Arkansas for the general election.
Justices tossed out more than 12,000 signatures that were approved by election officials for the proposal, saying supporters didn't comply with laws regarding registration and reporting of paid canvassers. The decision left the group nearly 2,500 signatures shy of what was needed to qualify for the ballot.
The head of Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the group behind the measure, didn't immediately comment. Two justices disagreed with the opinion, noting that a retired judge assigned by the court to review the petitions had said more than enough valid signatures were submitted. "The people should be permitted to vote on the initiative on November 8, and their votes should be counted," Interim Chief Justice Howard Brill wrote in the dissenting opinion.
Both measures called for allowing patients with certain medical conditions to buy the drug, but they differed in their restrictions and regulations. For example, the proposal struck down Thursday would have allowed patients to grow their own marijuana if they didn't live near a dispensary. Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana last week began airing TV ads statewide in favor of its proposal, Issue 6.
The head of that group said he believed the ruling would help his proposal. "It eliminates some of the confusion on which one to vote for," David Couch said. "If you want to help sick and dying patients in Arkansas, then you have to vote for (Issue 6)."
Arkansas voters narrowly rejected a medical marijuana proposal four years ago despite national groups spending big in favor of legalization. National support for medical marijuana has grown since then, and half of U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug in some fashion.
But the medical marijuana push faces more obstacles this year in Arkansas. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who headed the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, has spoken out against the measures. A coalition of the state's most powerful lobbying groups — including the state Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas Farm Bureau — have been campaigning against them. A Republican lawmaker has said he'll propose legislation next year legalizing a limited strain of the drug for some patients if voters reject legalizing medical marijuana next month.
The opinion in this case is available at this link.
October 27, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
The title of this post is the headline of this new article from my own Columbus Dispatch. Here are excerpts:
Can you legally buy medical marijuana in Ohio? If so, can you get it from a licensed medical marijuana dispensary, family member or friend, drug dealer or grow it yourself?
You would think the answers to these questions would be simple and straightforward under the letter of the law. Not so much.
Technically, medical marijuana has been legal in Ohio since a new law, House Bill 523, took effect Sept. 8. But as of yet — and probably not until 2018 — patients in Ohio cannot legally buy marijuana for medical purposes.
Before that happens, the complicated, time-consuming job of drafting rules, policies, certifications, licenses and many other things must be completed. Rules don’t have to be in place, by law, until next year. Only after rules go through two state oversight agencies can cultivators begin growing marijuana crops, with processing, lab testing and sales through licensed dispensaries to follow. Advocates have pressed the board to allow physicians to utilize an “affirmative defense” clause in the statue, essentially offering legal protection against prosecution if physicians recommend medical marijuana for a patient prior to it being available here.
Robert Giacalone, a medical board member, said the agency “is in no way prohibiting the recommendation of medical marijuana now that HB523 is effective.” But he added there is “ conflicting language” in the law because of a provision prohibiting physicians from recommending marijuana until Ohio rules are written and the product is grown and sold in the state. “If any physician wishes to recommend medical marijuana before the rules are in place, we strongly recommend that they contact a private attorney,” Giaclone said at a board meeting last Wednesday.
Rob Ryan, head of Ohio Patient Network, an advocacy group, said, “There is no doubt in my mind that people with qualifying conditions should be able to get medical marijuana in Ohio.” Ryan said he knows some physicians are recommending marijuana but, like patients, they are being very cautious. Asked where patients can get marijuana if they have a physician’s recommendation, Ryan said, “it might be growing in your backyard or basement, from a family member or friend, or a dealer as a last resort. I’d be very careful going out of state.”
Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, which advises the medical board, concludes it would be “very difficult” to legally obtain marijuana in Ohio at this time. “Everybody knows there’s significant lead time built into this statute,” DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said. “We don’t have the specific rules in place at the medical board or the pharmacy board.”...
The delays and moratoriums are seen as chipping away at the law by Savannah Smith of the Ohio Rights Group, an advocacy organization. “It’s extremely frustrating,” Smith said. “The sick, dying and disabled of Ohio are our most vulnerable. They are medical refugees. “We had hoped this law would provide some real relief for the population that we’ve been fighting for for years.”
October 26, 2016 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, October 16, 2016
The 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
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.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
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
--- 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)