Friday, July 22, 2016
Illinois judge orders reconsideration of making migraines an eligible condition for medical marijuana in the state
As 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.
Thursday, July 7, 2016
This 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.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
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.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
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
Sunday, July 3, 2016
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.
Thursday, June 23, 2016
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:
Saturday, June 18, 2016
Regular 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:
- Women & Weed: Blazing A Trail Toward Nationwide Legalization
- Could (and will) women executives become dominant leaders in the marijuana industry?
- "Whoopi Goldberg Launches Medical-Marijuana Products Targeted at Menstrual Cramps"
Thursday, June 16, 2016
New Drug Policy Alliance report highlights problems with access and data in New York medical marijuana program
Earlier 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.”
Thursday, June 9, 2016
As reported in this AP article, headlined "Ohio Becomes Latest State to Legalize Medical Marijuana," the Buckeye State is now officially a medical marijuana state. Here are the basics:
Republican Gov. John Kasich signed a bill Wednesday legalizing medical marijuana in Ohio, though patients shouldn't expect to get it from dispensaries here anytime soon. The bill lays out a number of steps that must happen first to set up the state's medical marijuana program, which is expected to be fully operational in about two years. The law would allow patients to use marijuana in vapor form for certain chronic health conditions, but bar them from smoking it or growing it at home.
Kasich's signature made Ohio the 25th state to legalize a comprehensivemedical marijuana program, according to a count by the National Conference of State Legislatures. [Editor's Note: I think this is really the 26th state, because after recent reforms Louisiana's should be part of this count.] ...When the law takes effect in 90 days, cities and towns could move to ban dispensaries or limit the number of them. Licensed cultivators, processors, dispensaries and testing laboratories could not be within 500-feet of schools, churches, public libraries, playgrounds or parks. Employers could continue to enforce drug-testing policies and maintain drug-free workplaces. Banks that provide services to marijuana-related entities would be protected from criminal prosecution....
A newly created Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee will help develop regulations and make recommendations. The governor and legislative leaders must appoint people to the 14-member panel no later than 30 days after the bill's effective date. Its members will represent employers, labor, local law enforcement, caregivers, patients, agriculture, people involved in mental health treatment and people involved in the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction. Others include a nurse, academic researcher, two practicing pharmacists and two practicing physicians. No more than six members can be of the same political party. The bill dissolves the committee after five years and 30 days....
The legislation specifies that the medical marijuana program is to be fully operational within two years of the bill.... The Ohio Department of Commerce, State Medical Board and Board of Pharmacy will all play a role. The Commerce Department will oversee licensing of marijuana cultivators, processors and testing labs. The Pharmacy Board will license dispensaries and register patients and their caregivers, and set up a hotline to take questions from patients and caregivers. The Medical Board would issue certificates to physicians seeking to recommend treatment with medical marijuana.
Some prior related posts about Ohio's recent legislative and regulatory medical marijuana activity:
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Minnesota Dept of Health survey shows patients and health-care providers report benefits from medical marijauna including reduced opioid use
This local article, headlined "Most Minnesota medical marijuana patients, and their practitioners, find treatment beneficial," reports on some positive results from early surveys of participants in Minnesota's medical marijuana program. Here are basics from the press report (with links from the original, and my emphasis added):
Almost all patients participating in Minnesota’s medical marijuana program say they are benefiting from the treatment, according to the results of a Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) survey released Monday. Most of the patients’ health-care providers agree, although they tend to be more modest with their assessment of the treatment’s therapeutic benefits, the survey also found.
“This was certainly not a clinical trial. It can’t answer questions about effectiveness,” said Dr. Thomas Arneson, research manager for the MDH’s Office of Medical Cannabis, in a phone interview with MinnPost. “But I was impressed by the high level of benefit reported,” he added. “We heard from 55 percent of the patients, which is pretty good. So even if it was a lower presumption of benefit among the others who didn’t respond, it was still pretty substantial.”
MDH sent the survey to the 435 patients who purchased medical marijuana during the first three months of the state’s program (July 1 to Sept. 30, 2015) and to the 345 health-care practitioners, including physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, who certified them as being eligible for the treatment. The survey asked the patients and the practitioners to rate the level of benefit received from the use of medical marijuana on a scale of 1 (no benefit) to 7 (a great deal of benefit).
Surveys were completed by 241 (55 percent) of the patients and by 94 (27 percent) of the health-care practitioners. The perception of benefit was high in both groups. Almost 88 percent of the patients and 68 percent of the health-care practitioners reported at least some benefit to the patient (a score of 4 or higher) from the treatment. A “significant” level of benefit (a score of 6 or 7) was reported by 66 percent of the patients and 46 percent of the practitioners.
The top three conditions for which the patients surveyed had been prescribed medical marijuana were severe muscle spasms, seizures and cancer. Although benefits were reported for all of those conditions, patients with cancer reported the highest scores, while the practitioners indicated that they had observed the greatest benefit from the treatments among their patients with muscle spasms.
The practitioners’ reports of benefit for all the conditions were generally more conservative than those of the patients. “The patients were a little bit higher on the more subjective quality-of-life benefits than the healthcare practitioners were,” said Arneson. “The clinicians tended to respond more with things that were measurable, that were objective,” he added.
One interesting benefit reported by the practitioners was a reduction in the need for other pain medications. Twelve said their patients were able to reduce their pain medication dosage as a result of the marijuana, including at least six who were able to decrease their use of prescription opioids.
About 20 percent of the surveyed patients and 16 percent of the surveyed practitioners reported patient side effects from the marijuana treatment — a finding that mirrors what has been observed in research conducted elsewhere, said Arneson. In the MDH survey, the side effects included hives, stomach pains, dizziness, fatigue, a burning sensation in the mouth and paranoia. None of the side effects were life-threatening, although four patients (2 percent) reported an increase in seizures.
Despite the survey's overall positive results, not everybody who receives medical marijuana treatment for one of the qualifying conditions is going to benefit from it, Arneson emphasized. “How much of this is the placebo factor, we don’t know, although it’s probably quite a bit of it,” he said. “Cannabis is not a miracle drug,” he added.
Still, the survey suggests that whether or not the placebo effect is in play, many patients believe medical marijuana is helping to ease their symptoms. “These are individual persons, individual lives, many of whom are having great difficulties in their lives because of their medical conditions,” said Arneson. ...
FMI: The MDH’s report on the survey was published online in the June issue of Minnesota Medicine magazine, where it can be read in full. The complete survey results — including specific comments from patients about the effects of the treatment on their medical condition — can be found on MDH’s Office of Medical Cannabis website.
Monday, June 6, 2016
Louisiana universities and businesses now clearly think the Bayou State is a serious medical marijuana reform jurisdiction
There has been some enduring debate and uncertainty as to whether Louisiana should "count" as one of the two-dozen-plus states that have enacted significant medical marijuana reforms. For a number of reasons, and especially since recent legislative reforms to the state's medical marijuana rules, I think Louisiana should count in any accounting of such states. And this recent local article, headlined "Louisiana gearing up for marijuana business: How much might LSU, Southern, companies profit? How will it be distributed?," suggests that now shortage of Louisiana officials and institutions are now considering the state's work in this space very seriously. Here are highlights from the interesting article:
Growing up on a cotton farm in Missouri in the 1950s, Bill Richardson didn’t know a thing about marijuana. Nobody talked about it, he never saw it and he certainly never smoked it. “I didn’t inhale,” Richardson, LSU’s 71-year-old vice president for agriculture and dean of the College of Agriculture, said with a smile in a recent interview.
Richardson has become the unlikely leader of an effort to get LSU into the pot business. Last month, the Louisiana Legislature approved a bill that legalizes the use of marijuana for people suffering from a specific list of debilitating diseases. The so-called medical marijuana legislation authorizes LSU and Southern University to grow and produce cannabis to be consumed in a liquid form. (Hold the “Cheech and Chong” jokes — it cannot be smoked, and no, they won’t be offering samples.)
The boards of both universities appear likely to give the go-ahead for pot cultivation. It’s not clear yet, however, who will provide the $10 million to $20 million needed to produce the drug, which will be sold at 10 standalone pharmacies designated by a state agency. None of the people wanting to be treated by pot will have access to it for at least 18 months.
When the Legislature legalized marijuana for patients suffering from 10 specific diseases, lawmakers told emotional stories about the children and loved ones who stood to benefit. Opponents, meanwhile, warned darkly that Louisiana was heading down a slippery slope toward legalizing a dangerous drug. Lost in the debate is what the measure will mean for LSU and Southern — and the private companies that are now emerging to try to profit from the new industry by partnering with the universities.
The legislation by state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, gave LSU and Southern no money to launch this new venture, meaning they will have to rely on private companies to buy the seeds, hire scientists, rent or build growing facilities and pay for all the other costs. “All of the money would have to come from venture capitalists, or you’d have to sell bonds,” said Adell Brown, the point person at Southern as the university’s interim chancellor for its Agricultural Research and Extension Center. Neither Brown nor Richardson can say yet how much it will cost to get the business running at full speed, but both agree that it probably will take at least $10 million.
Brown and Richardson both report getting calls from representatives of companies that want to rent or sell land or provide a growing facility. Others are inquiring about financing the entire venture with the expectation of earning a profit. “It’s a money-making venture,” Brown said.
Neither he nor Richardson knows yet where they might grow the pot, but the universities are not likely to do it together. (The Legislature has authorized them to cultivate the marijuana because of federal laws prohibiting the transport of marijuana across state lines.) The University of Mississippi grows marijuana for research under a special federal license on the edge of its campus, in a field surrounded by two fences and armed guards, said an Ole Miss spokesman. “My recommendation is that it not be grown on campus, for the PR,” Richardson said.
He expects that LSU’s Board of Supervisors will authorize the growing of marijuana at its June 24 meeting. “It’s something we can do,” Richardson said, adding that he sees this as an opportunity for the university to duplicate its pioneering work with rice and other crops. Besides, “over the past year, I’ve heard enough testimonials of the medicinal effects to believe that the benefits outweigh the negatives. Plus, there may be some opportunities to create an income stream to help us balance our budget.”
Brown said he expects Southern’s board to approve the venture at either its June or July meeting. “It will be a highly sophisticated and self-controlled facility with the proper protocols for security,” he said. “We have faculty members who have done work with a lot of different crops that are of the same family.”...
While LSU and Southern are gearing up, several state entities are working to provide the regulatory framework for everyone who wants to be involved. The Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners already has drafted its rules for doctors who want to apply to treat patients suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and seven other diseases, including HIV and AIDS. No doctor can treat more than 100 patients, said Eric Torres, the executive director of the medical board. Mills’ legislation, Senate Bill 271, requires doctors to “recommend,” not “prescribe,” the drug, to get around federal laws.
The state Department of Agriculture and Forestry is drafting rules that will govern the growing and production of the medical marijuana. The Legislature has authorized money for the agency to hire outside labs to make sure the marijuana is free of pesticides and heavy metals and has the least possible THC — the active ingredient that makes people high — and to hire staff to regulate the new business. “We have to make sure that end product is safe,” Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said in an interview.
The end product is what the patients actually will buy. “The marijuana cannot be inhaled,” said Jesse McCormick, of the Louisiana Cannabis Association, who lobbied to pass SB271. “It could be a cream. It could be in liquid form — tincture. It could be a gel cap. It could be a vitamin gummy. If you’re going to a dispensary to find ‘bud’ — well, you won’t.” The Louisiana Board of Pharmacy will decide on the drug’s final form and is leaning in favor of allowing LSU and Southern to make that decision. “Let the producers be as creative as they wish,” said Malcolm Broussard, the executive director of the board.
The 17 members of this Baton Rouge-based board — who are appointed by the governor to six-year terms — also will decide who will operate the 10 pharmacies throughout Louisiana that will sell the medical marijuana. Under state law, they cannot be part of a normal drugstore, although Broussard said it’s possible that the therapeutic drug could be sold in a convenience store. That store could not also sell prescription drugs, but it could offer over-the-counter drugs, he said.
Next year’s licensing decision will put a spotlight on a board so obscure that Broussard said he had never before been interviewed by an Advocate reporter during 17 years as executive director.
June 6, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
The question in the title of this post is the headline of this interesting new International Business Times article discussing the state and possible fate of the significant number of marijuana reform initiatives to be appearing on state ballots this fall. Here is how it gets started and additional excerpts from the middle and end of the lengthy piece:
In early May, the national advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project sent out a panicked email titled “Alone, beaten down and incredulous in Boston.” MPP had been working to land a marijuana legalization measure on Massachusetts’ ballot this November, but a recent fundraising event in Boston had drawn just a single attendee. “What’s worrisome isn’t this one bad event, but that it mirrors the contributions and involvement across Massachusetts since the initiative launch,” MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia wrote in the message. “Simply put, the campaign is broke,” he noted. The organization might not have the money to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in one of the most liberal states in the U.S.
A lack of fundraising dollars in Massachusetts isn’t the only reason marijuana advocates are beginning to feel nervous. 2016 is a pivotal year for the cannabis movement, with an unprecedented 10 states potentially voting on recreational or medical marijuana reforms in November. Planned are medical marijuana initiatives in Arkansas, Florida, Missouri and Montana, as well as recreational cannabis measures in Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada and California, the last of which would launch a legal cannabis industry in what is the world’s eighth-largest economy. But, according to campaign finance records, the 10 campaigns altogether to date have raised less than $11 million, just slightly more than marijuana advocates amassed in 2014 midterm elections to pass legalization measures in two states, Alaska and Oregon.
While it’s still relatively early in the 2016 campaign calendar, a lot more cash will be needed before November. Representatives of the national advocacy group Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) estimated at a recent webinar that it would likely cost between $40 million and $50 million to win in all 10 states. “There is a little bit of concern among people I have talked to that the movement might be trying to do too much too soon,” said Tom Angell, founder and chairman of the cannabis advocacy group Marijuana Majority, who recently wrote about the issue for Marijuana.com. “There are only so many dollars that can be raised to purchase advertising time and put together get-out-the-vote operations.” It doesn’t help that so far the growing marijuana industry has been reluctant to shoulder much of these campaigns’ costs or that anti-marijuana efforts are gaining traction. This confluence of factors has led some observers to posit that 2016 may not be the watershed year for cannabis legalization that many have predicted. Instead, it could be the year the ascendant cannabis crusade finally faces defeat.
“The marijuana movement is stretched so thin in 2016,” DPA Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann said during a presentation last month at Marijuana Business Daily’s Marijuana Business Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida. “I think what could happen in 2016 could be a harsh wake-up call.”...
As in years past, the two largest marijuana advocacy groups, DPA and MPP, are dividing their efforts between different reform campaigns. For example, DPA is playing a large role in the big California legalization effort, while MPP is highly involved in recreational marijuana initiatives in Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada (MPP suspended a medical marijuana effort in Ohio last week after legislators passed a medical cannabis law).
While MPP may be working on more concurrent state campaigns than it ever has before, Mason Tvert, the organization’s communications director, insisted it isn’t stretched too thin. “We only get involved in campaigns when we are confident we will be able to run an effective campaign and win,” he said. Still, he added that weighing in on the financial fitness of various political efforts can be a dicey prospect in the middle of campaign season. “If you say you have no money, people aren’t going to donate because they don’t think you have a chance,” he said. “If you say you have money coming out of your ears, they aren’t going to donate either.”...
Meanwhile, marijuana advocates are facing increasingly well-organized and well-funded opposition. In Massachusetts, the anti-marijuana campaign has garnered the support of Governor Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and House Speaker Rovert DeLeo. In California, opponents of legalization are gathering donations from police associations, prison guard groups and the Teamsters union. In Arizona, a conservative fundraising firm announced an anonymous donor had pledged $500,000 as a matching gift for all donations the anti-legalization campaign received during the month of May. In Florida, real estate mogul Mel Sembler has pledged to raise at least $10 million to fight the state’s medical marijuana initiative, $2.5 million more than he raised to defeat a similar effort in 2014. And Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or Project SAM, the most prominent anti-marijuana group nationwide, just announced it has raised $300,000 and formed new state partnerships to fight the various 2016 marijuana initiatives....
As the marijuana industry has flourished, Project SAM founder Kevin Sabet thinks the cannabis movement has been exposed to new lines of attack, such as that legalization is becoming all about the business bottom lines and not about social justice. “They have written these initiatives as corporate free-for-alls,” said Sabet. “The old-school pot legalizers who are not really in this for the money, a lot of them are pretty stunned and not sure what to do this year.”
But Troy Dayton, CEO of cannabis investment network the ArcView Group, disagrees. He said the marijuana industry isn’t very involved in the reform initiatives — and he thinks that’s a problem. “Our opposition likes to say this is ‘Big Marijuana’ trying to pass laws,” he said. “I wish that was the case. At least so far, that hasn’t really happened.” Dayton is concerned that there’s a false sense of security in the marijuana movement. “The media has done a very good job of suggesting the marijuana industry is making money hand over fist, so a lot of philanthropists who otherwise might be backing these issues are thinking, ‘Hey, there is an industry now, they will take this the rest of the way,’” he said. “But that is not really happening to enough of a degree to fundamentally move the needle.” For example, while ArcView’s members have together invested more than $70 million in various marijuana companies since 2010, the investor network has only contributed roughly a million dollars to various legalization initiatives in that same period.
According to Dayton, marijuana businesses are struggling with various industry headaches — such as sky-high tax rates and a lack of banking services — that make it unlikely they have loads of excess funds they can donate to political campaigns. But at this point, Dayton thinks that is no excuse. He believes marijuana activists and industry stakeholders alike need to realize that 2016 is the make-or-break year for cannabis reform. “I am out there pounding the pulpit, telling people, ‘Come on, folks, whether you are on the business side or the social justice side or both, now is the time. Whatever you would normally give, give three times that,’” he said. “If we win most of these initiatives, it’s really lights out on marijuana prohibition. But if we lose a significant portion of them, that could mean a much longer fight to ultimately end this disastrous policy.”
June 1, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, May 28, 2016
Calling out Leg/Reg, Ad Law scholars to start looking seriously at pros/cons of structures of state (and eventually federal) medical marijuana reforms
As explained in this prior post, this past week the Ohio General Assembly passed a massive medical marijuana bill that creates a remarkable regulatory structure for the development and application of rules and regulations for medical marijuana in the Buckeye State. Specifically, the 126-page(!) Ohio medical marijuana bill (available here; detailed summary/analysis here), creates three enduring regulatory bodies in charge of various parts the state's marijuana programming: the Department of Commerce, the board of pharmacy, and the medical board.
In addition, the bill also creates for, a five-year period, a multi-member "medical marijuana advisory committee" which "may develop and submit to the department of commerce, state board of pharmacy, and the state medical board any recommendations related to the medical marijuana control program." In my prior post, I suggested that Ohio-based lobbyists would surely love this regulatory structure; this post is my effort to encourage fellow LawProfs who follow closely the work of legislators and adminstrative regulators to love looking closely not only this Ohio legislation, but also the broader set of fascinating "leg/reg" and administrative law issues that are swiftly emerging at the local, state and federal level concerning medical marijuana reform.
For a range of understandable reasons, the traditional press and most marijuana/drug policy advocates spend a lot more time talking and thinking about recreational marijuana reforms than about (much more prevalent) medical marijuana reforms. Serious followers of the work of state legislatures and thoughtful legal scholars should realize, however, that medical marijuana reform efforts at the local, state and federal level is where the most significant (and diverse) action is now to be found and observed. Only five jurisdictions have enacted recreational marijuana reforms and all of those were the result of voter initiatives. But more than two dozen states have now enacted major medical marijuana reforms, and another dozen-and-half states have enacted limited-CBD-oil type reforms.
Moreover, and perhaps even more importantly, state legislatures have played a significant role in all of the most recent medical marijuana reform efforts in a number of big diverse states ranging from California to Louisiana to New York to Illinois to Pennsylvania to Ohio. In addition, even at the federal level where blanket prohibition is the law of the land, we have seen lots of notable bills proposed (and some provisions passed) that directly impacts how federal agencies and agents are to engage with state medical marijuana reforms. And, of course, there is ever-growing discussions of whether, when and how marijuana's placement on Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substantive Act might get changed.
In addition to seeing a whole lots of legislative and regulatory action at all levels, there is an extraordinary diversity in regulatory structures being put in place and starting to operate in various ways in various states. The Ohio legislation, for good of for bad, highlights the problematic reality that still nobody is yet sure at all what could or should be the best structure for developing sound on-going medical marijuana rules and regulations: is sound reform really about "medical/patient" issues for agencies like pharmacy/medical boards; is it really about "business/consumer" issues for agencies like a Department of Commerce or Taxation; or is medical marijuana its own special, strange, unique space that call for its own special, strange, unique regulatory body.
For the record, especially right now when blanket federal marijuana prohibition is still the basic law of the land, I consider medical marijuana reform and regulation to occupy its own special, strange, unique space calling for its own special, strange, unique regulatory body. For that reason and others, I am encouraged that the new Ohio law has created a diverse, multi-member "medical marijuana advisory committee," and I am hopeful that this body ends up staffed with a motivated and informed group of quasi-policy-makers who will take a leadership role in the months and years ahead as Ohio moves forward with its marijuana reform efforts.
That all said, and as this post is meant to highlight, my perspectives on these critical legislative/regulatory issues would be greatly informed and enhanced by having legal scholars who study these issues actively providing their informed perspective on the good, the bad and the ugly of sound regulatory reforms. I know these folks know a lot about topics relating to regulatory (in)efficiency and agency capture and all sort of other important topics, and I want to start better understanding what I know that I now do not know on these next forteirs for marijuana reform.
Long story short: I am putting you on notice Chris Walker, and I am eager to see some comments!
Some prior related posts about Ohio's recent legislative and regulatory medical marijuana activity:
May 28, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Unsurprisingly after Ohio legislators act, MPP suspends 2016 campaign for medical marijuana ballot initiative ... (so they can gear up for 2018 or 2020 recreational one?)
As reported in this local breaking story, headlined "Ohioans for Medical Marijuana suspends ballot initiative campaign," the passage of a big medical marijuana bill by the Ohio General Assembly this past week has now already had a major impact of Ohio marijuana reform policy and practicalities. Here are the details:
Ohioans won't vote on a broader medical marijuana legalization measure in November after state lawmakers passed a bill earlier this week. Ohioans for Medical Marijuana [OMM] announced Saturday they suspended their campaign. The decision came three days after the passage of House Bill 523, which allows people with certain medical conditions to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation and Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign.
"We make this decision with a heavy heart as we will surely disappoint our many volunteers, supporters and patient-advocates who invested considerable time and effort in our movement," campaign manager Brandon Lynaugh said in a statement. The group was backed by national group Marijuana Policy Project [MPP], which has a track record for successful lobbying and ballot initiative efforts.
When they announced their Ohio effort in January, the GOP-led General Assembly seemed unlikely to pass a comprehensive medical marijuana bill before November . But testimony from Ohioans who said they would benefit from medical marijuana and the possibility of such a program being written into the Ohio Constitution pushed legislators to pass a bill before leaving Columbus for the summer.
House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger welcomed the news in a statement sent Saturday morning and said it was an indication of lawmakers' willingness to listen and respond to the will of Ohioans. "Thanks to the open and transparent process that began in the Ohio House in which voices from all sides of the debate were invited to testify, we were able to join together around a proposal that is both reflective of public opinion and protective of the state's constitution," Rosenberger said.
The bill excluded some of the conditions in the proposed amendment and prohibited smoking and growing marijuana plants at home. As the bill moved through the Statehouse, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana said those aspects of the bill pushed them to continue collecting the nearly 306,000 signatures needed to put the measure on the November ballot. Until Saturday.
Lynaugh called the House bill "moderately good" and the organization will lobby the legislature to address its shortcomings. Lynaugh said raising money for a medical-only initiative proved difficult after lawmakers passed the bill. "The legislature's action on medical marijuana was a step forward, and thanks to the intense advocacy efforts of patients and their families, activists and our team the bill was vastly improved before passage," Lynaugh said.
I had predicted to anyone who would listen that Ohioians would likely not get a chance to vote on full marijuana legalization in 2016 if the controversial Issue 3 ballot initiative proposal before voters in 2015 lost badly (which it did). Part of my reasoning was that possible funders of such a campaign would not be eager to make a significant investment in a possible losing proposition. For largely the same reasons, I had been long predicting that MPP would pack up its efforts to get even a limited medical marijuana initiative on the Ohio ballot in 2016 if the Ohio General Assembly passed any kind of reasonable medical marijuana bill.
I am glad that the OMM manager's statement noted the challenges of raising money for an initiative because it helps reveal and highlight the enduring reality that Ohio is a VERY expensive initiative state both in terms of having to collect a whole lot of signatures to get on the ballot than then also to have the resources to run a campaign throughout a diverse state with lots of expensive media markets. Especially because it would surely prove especially challenging to convince voters that an Ohio constitutional amendment was needed for medical marijuana right after legislators just passed a complicated medical marijuana bill, I think it very wise that (1) OMM/MPP kept threating to move forward with an initiative in order to get the Ohio GA to keep making its bill better and better, and (2) now sees the wisdom of spending time and resources on working to continue to improve what the legislature has put into the Ohio Revised Code.
That all said, any and everyone interested in marijuana reform in the Buckeye State should be sending thank you notes to the folks involved with both ResponsibleOhio and MPP/OMM: Absent the money, time, energy, interest that these groups devoted to getting Ohio citizens and elected officials considering marijuana reform, any serious and significant marijuana reform in Ohio likely would not have become a viable reality until 2018 or 2020 or even later. But once the ResponsibleOhio folks showed how much money some folks would invest in possible reform, and especially once MPP jumped in to propose a kind of reform that would surely be a winner at the ballot box, Ohio official came to understand that ignoring the will of the people on this front any longer posed many more risks than benefits.
Speaking of 2018 or 2020 and of initiative campaigns in Ohio, as my post title highlights, I think it pretty likely that the MPP folks (or maybe folks who were involved in ResponsibleOhio) are now terrifically positioned to start gearing up for an initiative run at recreation marijuana reform come 2018 or 2020. Especially if a significant number of voters in a significant number of states in 2016 enact recreational reform on the coasts, I think MPP and other reformers/investors will be looking to move forward aggressively with recreation marijuana reform campaigns in the heartland. In the immediate short-term, Michigan seems a state more likely to vote for recreational reform (and the economic development that goes with it), but Ohio is sure not to end up too far behind. Indeed, I can see lots of interesting stategic benefits to MPP of trying to do recreational ballot reform in both Michigan an Ohio at the same time, say in 2018 or 2020.
May 28, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, May 26, 2016
As reported in this local article, "Ohio is poised to become the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana after state lawmakers approved a fast-moving bill Wednesday evening in a close vote." Here are more of the details and the enduring issues about marijuana reform still in play in the Buckeye State:
As I explained in this prior post, I think the final complicated structure for medical marijuana reform enacted by the Ohio legislature may prove to have even more benefits for lawyers and lobbyists than for prospective patients. But I suppose time will tell on this front, and how MPP (and advocates and polls) respond to bill may ultimately script the future of marijuana reform in the state more than the particulars of this legislation.
The bill cleared the Ohio Senate on Wednesday in a bipartisan 18-15 vote. The House later agreed to the changes, sending the bill to Gov. John Kasich. Kasich has said he would support a medical marijuana bill if doctors led on the issue.
The vote caps a historic debate at the Statehouse about medical marijuana, a subject the conservative legislature has been reluctant to take up for years. But last year's failed recreational marijuana measure, sky-high support for medical marijuana in public opinion polls and the prospect of another ballot initiative nudged lawmakers to act....
People with one of about two dozen qualifying medical conditions could use marijuana if recommended by their physician. Patients could not smoke or grow their own marijuana, but vaping would be allowed.
Oils, tinctures, patches and plant material would be sold in dispensaries licensed by the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy. The Department of Commerce would write rules for licensing cultivators, processors and testing labs. The State Medical Board would register physicians and determine education requirements for those physicians. A bipartisan 13-member Medical Marijuana Advisory Board would recommend rules to the three regulatory agencies.
The program would have to be up and running within two years. Patients and caregivers would have an "affirmative defense" from arrest or prosecution if caught with marijuana before it's legally sold in Ohio, as long as use was recommended by a physician and meets the criteria established for the program.
Medical marijuana patients could be fired for violating an employer's drug-free workplace policy, as they are in other medical marijuana states. Patients would then be ineligible for unemployment benefits.
Sen. Kenny Yuko, a Richmond Heights Democrat and long-time medical marijuana supporter, shared the stories of several Ohioans who told lawmakers they or their children would benefit from marijuana. Marijuana has been proven to reduce seizures, pain and, Yuko said while showing pictures of would-be patients. "This bill is not perfect, folks, but it's what Ohio patients need," Yuko said. "If we can give one veteran comfort, if we can ease one patient's horrible pain, if we can prevent one heroin overdose or save one child's life -- this bill will be worth it."
Senators differed in their reasons for voting no. Some opposed marijuana use or said the federal Food and Drug Administration should approve marijuana for medicinal use. Sen. Jay Hottinger, a Newark Republican, said law enforcement and anti-drug activists in his district urged him to oppose the bill. "What we have before us today is not simply a child suffering seizure from epilepsy but something much greater than that," Hottinger said.
Others disagreed with language that allowed patients to be fired for their marijuana use and unable to collect unemployment compensation. Sen. Sandra Williams, a Cleveland Democrat, voted against the bill because she thought the issue should be decided by voters in November.
Nicole Scholten, a Cincinnati mom whose daughter suffers from seizures and cerebral palsy, was among the dozens of medical marijuana supporters watching the Senate vote Wednesday night. Scholten, who has been trying to convince lawmakers to act for years, said she felt conflicted about the vote. "We are on the way to being a state that supports patients that are not being helped by FDA-approved medications," Scholten said.
The bill would cover her daughter, Scholten said, but there are several conditions the bill doesn't cover. And she said nurse practitioners and other medical professions who prescribe controlled substances should also be allowed to recommend medical marijuana, as they are in the proposed ballot measure.
Meanwhile, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana plans to continue collecting the 305,591 signatures of Ohio voters needed by July 6 to put its medical marijuana measure on the November ballot. The group is backed by national organization Marijuana Policy Project. Their proposed constitutional amendment would allow smoking in private areas and home grow and includes more qualifying medical conditions including severe nausea and autism.
Campaign spokesman Aaron Marshall said House Bill 523 is a step forward but still too restrictive. "Our Constitutional amendment builds on the legislature's work by incorporating national best practices and offers voters an opportunity to enact a law free of the horse-trading inherent in the legislative process," Marshall said.
After the bill is sent to Kasich, he has 10 days to sign it. If he doesn't sign, it automatically becomes law. The law is effective 90 days after Kasich signs, likely sometime in early September.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Lobbyists, start your engines: revisions to Ohio medical marijuana bill creates array of regulators and rule-makers
As reported in this local article, headlined "Senators remove pharmacist requirement from medical marijuana bill," the Ohio General Assembly has done some additional notable tweaking of the medical marijuana legislation being fast-tracked in this state. Here are the latest details, along with my explanation for the Indy 500-inspired title to this post:
Senators vetting a medical marijuana bill eliminated a requirement that every marijuana dispensary be run by a licensed pharmacist, expanded the definition of pain to qualify for medical marijuana and other changes cheered by medical marijuana advocates.
The Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee added the pharmacist requirement last week as well as put the program under the oversight of the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy. The Ohio Pharmacists Association supported the change, but patient advocates said would increase patient costs and render Ohio's medical marijuana program ineffective.
The committee is expected to make small changes to the bill Wednesday morning before approving it for a full floor vote as early as Wednesday afternoon. The revised bill then would need approval from the House before heading to Gov. John Kasich's desk....
Three states require pharmacists in medical marijuana dispensaries: Connecticut, Minnesota and New York. Advocates have criticized those states for having overly restrictive programs. Sen. Dave Burke, a Marysville Republican and pharmacist, said the pharmacist requirement raised concerns about patient access, and the bill has other safeguards to ensure products are safely administered. "We're not wanting to be restrictive, we're not wanting to be burdensome but we don't want to expose people to harm," Burke said.
House Bill 523 would allow patients with about two dozen qualifying conditions to buy and use marijuana if recommended by a licensed Ohio physician. The Ohio Department of Commerce would write the rules and regulations for who could commercially grow or manufacture products from marijuana. Smoking and home growing are not allowed in the bill. Patients would have an affirmative defense from arrest and prosecution to possess and use marijuana before dispensaries are up and running.
Patients would have to have a doctor's recommendation and the marijuana would have to be legal under the Ohio law. Burke said the pharmacy board will also draft rules allowing patients from states with similar requirements to access Ohio medical marijuana. "It has to fit in the framework -- you can't just bring your baggie of Colorado weed to Ohio," Burke said....
Lawmakers supporting the bill are motivated in part by a constitutional amendment planned for the November ballot. Ohioans for Medical Marijuana spokesman Aaron Marshall said the revised bill still does not address patient concerns and is inferior to his group's proposed measure. The amendment allows patients to smoke marijuana and grow their own or enlist a caregiver to grow for them. Marijuana won't be covered by medical insurance plans, Marshall said, so home grow is the best way to ensure poor Ohioans will have access to the plant.
Changes made Tuesday morning:
- Chronic and severe pain is one qualifying condition and intractable pain is a separate condition.
- The pharmacy board would license retail dispensaries, register patients and regulate marijuana packaging and acceptable paraphernalia.
- The Department of Commerce would license cultivators, processors and testing labs and operate a seed-to-sale tracking system. Cultivator licensing rules would have to be written within 240 days of the bill's effective date instead of 180 days.
- The state medical board would certify physicians for the program.
The title of this post is my basic reaction to the reality that, in this latest version of Ohio's medical marijuana bill, there will be at least three enduring regulatory bodies in charge of various parts the state's marijuana programming: the Department of Commerce, the board of pharmacy, and the state medical board. In addition, the bill also creates for, a five-year period, a multi-member "medical marijuana advisory committee" which "may develop and submit to the department of commerce, state board of pharmacy, and the state medical board any recommendations related to the medical marijuana control program." So, any patient or parent or doctor or caregiver or cultivator or processor or lab or any other business or person wanting to influence Ohio's regulatory structures for medical marijuana will want/need to consider lobbying various regulatory bodies and the medical marijuana advisory committee.
And, of course, because all these structures are being created through standard state legislation, the many diverse regulatory bodies are not the only ones to be lobbied. I would expect in the years ahead, both pro- and anti-marijuana advocates and their lobbyists will sometimes go over the heads of the assigned regulators to try to get the General Assembly through future legislation to place new/changed marijuana rules directly into Ohio's Revised Code.
Long story short: though I am not yet sure that the regulatory structure being created now in Ohio will facilitate a robust medical marijuana industry, I am sure that there is likely going to have to be a robust medical marijuana lobby industry in the Buckeye State at least for the next few years.
Thursday, May 19, 2016
The title of this post is the headline of this notable report authored by Tom Angell explaining a notable vote today in Congress. Here are the notable details:
The U.S. House took action to increase military veterans’ access to medical marijuana on Thursday.
By a vote of 233-189, representatives approved an amendment preventing the Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) from spending money to enforce a current policy that prohibits its government doctors from filling out medical marijuana recommendation forms in states where the drug is legal. The language is now attached to a bill funding the V.A. and military construction efforts through next year.
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on its version of the legislation later on Thursday. Medical cannabis protections for veterans were added to that bill last month in bipartisan vote of 20-10 in the Senate Appropriations Committee. It is not expected that any senators will offer floor amendments to strike the marijuana provision before passage.
“One of the great concerns we have is how the two million young Americans who were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan reintegrate back into society,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the House amendment’s sponsor, said in a floor debate early Thursday morning. “What I hear from veterans that I talk to is that an overwhelming number of them say that medical marijuana has helped them deal with PTSD, pain and other conditions, particularly as an alternative to opioids.”
Under current V.A. policy, military veterans have to go to separate private doctors to get medical marijuana recommendations, which can be costly and time-consuming. “Those patients who want to pursue medical marijuana have to go ahead and hire a physician out of their own pocket,” said Blumenauer. “Not dealing with the medical professional of their choice, their V.A. doctor, who knows them the best.”
But there was some reluctant disagreement on the House floor. “I understand that the country is evolving on this issue as many states, including my own, have moved forward on medical marijuana,” said Rep. Charles Dent (R-PA), whose home state just became the 24th in the U.S. with a comprehensive medical marijuana law. “As a member of this House, I’m a bit uncomfortable, however, in trying to dictate policy on marijuana without guidance from Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health and other medical professionals.”
But Blumenauer took exception to that characterization. “This amendment does not dictate treatment options. It’s not interfering. It’s not superimposing anybody’s judgement about the merits of marijuana. It simply enables V.A. doctors and patients to interact with state-legal marijuana systems,” he said. “We should not be limiting the treatment options available to our veterans.”
Last year the Senate approved the Fiscal Year 2016 version of the V.A. spending bill, with similar medical cannabis protections for veterans attached, but the House narrowly defeated a move to add the amendment to its version of the legislation by a vote of 213-210. As a result, the provision was not included in the final omnibus appropriations package signed into law by President Obama in December.
Since then, momentum on medical cannabis and broader marijuana law reform issues has continued to increase. Last month, for example, Pennsylvania became the 24th state in the U.S with a comprehensive medical marijuana program. This month, both chambers of the Louisiana State Legislature and the Ohio House of Representatives approved medical cannabis bills.
The U.S. House measure also would have passed last year if two medical marijuana supporters hadn’t voted against it. Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), admitted at the time that he misread the amendment and voted the wrong way. Another supporter, Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) said he voted no because the measure didn’t go far enough in his view. With those two votes flipped, the result would have been 212-211.
The V.A. policy disallowing its doctors from recommending medical marijuana in states where it is legal actually expired on January 31 but, under the department’s procedures, the ban technically remains in effect until a new policy is enacted.
Advocates expect a new policy soon, but aren’t sure what it will say. In February 2015, a top V.A. official testified before a House committee that the department is undertaking “active discussions” about how to address the growing number of veterans who are seeking cannabis treatments.
Separately, a trio of Democratic senators submitted an additional amendment this week intended to spur medical cannabis research by the V.A. The V.A., in partnership with the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder may “conduct clinical research on the potential benefits of therapeutic use of the cannabis plant by veterans,” reads the amendment offered by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Cory Booker (NJ) and Barbara Boxer (CA).
The senators want the government to look into the use of cannabis “as a treatment to achieve and maintain abstinence from opioids and heroin.” The proposal directs the secretary of veterans affairs to submit a report on efforts to expand such research within 180 days. It is not yet clear if the amendment will receive a vote on the Senate floor.
Last week medical marijuana opponents succeeded in getting the House Rules Committee to kill two amendments aimed at increasing government research on medical marijuana’s possible impact on opioid abuse.
As reported in this local article, headlined "John Bel Edwards signs medical marijuana law," I think it is now proper to count Louisiana as a state that has now enacted real, functional broad medical marijuana reform. Here are the basics:
Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a landmark medical marijuana bill into law Thursday (May 19) that is expected to make medical marijuana available to patients for the first time in Louisiana history.
Edwards signed the bill during a ceremony on the fourth floor of the Capitol in front of key legislators who guided the bill to passage, First Lady Donna Edwards, and the families of children with conditions they believe can be treated with the drug. Among those present were a family from Edwards' hometown of Amite who have a son that suffers from daily seizures and would qualify for the drug.
"This is one of those bills I believe will have a positive impact on the people that need it the most," Edwards said. "The state of Louisiana should not interpose itself between doctors and patients when the doctors believe they have a patient who will benefit from medical marijuana."
Although Edwards' signature marked a significant moment for dispensing medical marijuana, it will be some time before doctors could actually recommend the drug to patients and a pharmacy could dispense it. By one estimate, it could take about 18 months, but if other states adopting medical marijuana legislation give any indication, it could take even longer.
Even so, advocates have said the legislation passed this session gives them hope that one day, family members could benefit from the drug and they won't have to make plans to move to states like Colorado where medical marijuana is available. Edwards said the idea that families would move away from Louisiana to obtain a safe and legal product in other states was a driving force behind his support.
"It simply is unacceptable to tell parents of kids that if they want to make them available to the kids the medicine recommended by their doctors to achieve some better quality of life -- some reduction in pain -- that they should have to move," Edwards said.
As detailed in a post below from last year, Louisiana had passed a medical marijuana law in 2015 that required doctor "prescriptions" that made the reform essentially non-functional. This local story indicates the new law takes care of this problem and covers additional ground:
Senate Bill 271 changes the legal wording to allow doctors to recommend nonsmokable forms of medical cannabis to qualified patients.
The new law also expands the state’s list of medical marijuana qualifying conditions to include cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, cachexia or wasting syndrome, seizure disorders, epilepsy, spasticity, severe muscle spasms, Crohn’s disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis.
The previous version of the law included just three qualifying conditions: glaucoma, cancer and spastic quadriplegia.
Prior related post from 2015: Louisiana now with broadest (and least functional?) medical marijuana laws in South
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
As reported in this local article, headlined "Ohio pharmacy board would run medical marijuana program under bill changes," the Ohio legislative process keep moving ahead swiftly as the state continue a path toward becoming the latest to enact significant medical marijuana reforms. Here are the details:
Patients would be allowed to use medical marijuana from other states while Ohio sets up its own program, under changes made to a bill moving quickly through the General Assembly. House Bill 523 would allow people with certain medical conditions to buy and use marijuana with permission of an Ohio-licensed physician. The Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday made several changes to speed up the time line for establishing the program and increase patient participation in the process.
The biggest change made was moving the medical marijuana program from the Department of Commerce to the state Pharmacy Board. Sen. Dave Burke, a Marysville Republican and pharmacist, said the board would begin licensing cultivators six months earlier than under the previous version of the bill. Then the board would write rules for businesses that make marijuana products and retail dispensaries.
Burke said the bill has no written limit on who can participate; it maintains a requirement that minority business owners receive 15 percent of all marijuana business licenses. "It's not the intent to have a monopoly but to have a market of equity and equal participation," Burke said....
Patients could obtain and use marijuana from other states before it's legally sold in Ohio without being arrested, if it was recommended by a doctor for a qualifying condition and not smoked. Each dispensary would be under the control of a licensed pharmacist.
Doctors would not be required to specify dosage and delivery methods in their recommendations nor submit periodic reports about their recommendations. Recommendations would be good for 90 days and doctors could renew them for three additional periods without seeing the patient....
A 12-member advisory board including a patient, caregiver, nurse, physicians, pharmacists and representatives from law enforcement, labor, and employers. Some members would have to support medical marijuana use.
Alzheimer's disease and fibromyalgia would be added to the list of qualifying medical conditions.
Employers would have to prove employees violated a workplace anti-drug policy for the employee to lose unemployment or workers' compensation benefits, and employees could appeal similar to other controlled substances.
Two problems advocates have with the bill were not changed. Smoking marijuana is not allowed in the bill, but patients could inhale vaporized cannabis. The bill does not allow people to grow their own marijuana.
The bill cleared the Ohio House last week with broad, bipartisan support, and has been fast-tracked for passage before lawmakers break for summer.
Saturday, May 14, 2016
The Tax Foundation describes itself as the "nation’s leading independent tax policy research organization," and it claims that "since 1937, [its] principled research, insightful analysis, and engaged experts have informed smarter tax policy at the federal, state, and local levels." Helpfully, it has recently turned its attention to marijuana reform via these two new publications:
Here are the "Key Findings" from these two reader-friendly reports (which overlap a bit):
- Marijuana tax collections in Colorado and Washington have exceeded initial estimates.
- A mature marijuana industry could generate up to $28 billion in tax revenues for federal, state, and local governments, including $7 billion in federal revenue: $5.5 billion from business taxes and $1.5 billion from income and payroll taxes.
- A federal tax of $23 per pound of product, similar to the federal tax on tobacco, could generate $500 million per year. Alternatively, a 10 percent sales surtax could generate $5.3 billion per year, with higher tax rates collecting proportionately more.
- The reduction of societal risk in being engaged in the marijuana trade, as well as the inclusion of taxes, will combine to reduce profits (and tax collections) somewhat from an initial level after national legalization.
- Society pays all the costs regardless of legality but tax revenues help offset those costs.
- Marijuana tax collections in Colorado and Washington have exceeded initial estimates, and a nationwide legalization-and-tax regime could see states raise billions of dollars per year in marijuana tax revenue.
- Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have all taken steps to reduce their marijuana tax rates, with Alaska considering it, after initial rates of 30 percent or more did not reduce the black market sufficiently. More recent ballot initiative proposals across the country propose rates between 10 and 25 percent.
- Tax rates on final retail sales have proven the most workable form of taxation. Other forms of taxation that have been proposed, such as taxing marijuana flowers at a certain dollar amount, taxing at the processor or producer level rather than the retail level, or taxing products by their level of THC, have faced practical implementation difficulties.
- Medical marijuana is usually more loosely regulated and less taxed than recreational marijuana. In Washington, moving non-medical sales to the retail market has proven difficult given the enormous differentials in tax rates and regulatory structure, and officials there wish the two systems had been tackled simultaneously.
- While the revenue can be in the tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars, it takes a lead time to develop. Revenues started out slowly in Colorado and Washington, as consumers became familiar with the new system and after state and local authorities spent time and money setting up new frameworks and regulatory infrastructure.
- Significant attention must be given to health, agricultural, zoning, local enforcement, and criminal penalty issues. These important issues have generally been unaddressed in ballot initiatives and left for resolution in the implementation process.
May 14, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)