Tag: Medical

Wisconsin Governor Candidate Favors Legalizing Cannabis

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democratic candidate for governor Matt Flynn says if Wisconsin voters want to legalize marijuana, he’s all for it.

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Flynn on Tuesday called for the Republican-controlled Legislature to put a non-binding referendum on the November 2018 ballot asking if there’s support for the legalization and sale of marijuana.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said he was open to legalizing medical marijuana, but a Democratic bill to do that has languished.

If it would pass, Flynn says as governor he would push the Legislature to follow through.

There have been small signs of movement in the current Legislature among supporters of legalizing marijuana. A bipartisan bill introduced this year would have loosened penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

And Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said he was open to legalizing medical marijuana, but a Democratic bill to do that has languished.

Gov. Scott Walker opposes cannabis legalization.

New York Adds PTSD as Qualifying Condition for Medical Cannabis

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo marked Veterans Day by signing a package of bills into law on Saturday, including a measure to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the state’s list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.

“Our veterans risked their lives in order to defend the ideals and principles that this nation was founded upon,” Cuomo said, “and it is our duty to do everything we can to support them when they return home.”

“PTSD is a serious problem facing our state, and now we have one more tool available to alleviate suffering.”

Bob Becker, New York State Council of Veterans Organizations

The bipartisan measure earned overwhelming support in the state Legislature earlier this year, winning landslide Assembly approval (131–8) in May and passing through the Senate (50–13) in June. As many as 19,000 New Yorkers with PTSD could be helped by medical marijuana, the Democratic governor said, including veterans as well as police officers and survivors of domestic violence, crime, and accidents.

In a statement, the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Richard N. Gottfried (D-Manhattan), said Cuomo’s signing of the bill “reflects growing recognition of the value of medical marijuana, and is another welcome step in the expanding and strengthening of New York’s medical marijuana program.”

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Veterans advocates also cheered the news. Many had previously warned that if Cuomo rejected the bill, those suffering from PTSD would be forced to turn to the illicit market or move out of the state in order to seek access to cannabis.

“Gov. Cuomo should be applauded for helping thousands of New York veterans find relief with medical marijuana,” said Bob Becker, legislative director for the New York State Council of Veterans Organizations. “PTSD is a serious problem facing our state, and now we have one more tool available to alleviate suffering.”

New York is the 28th state to allow medical marijuana to be used to treat PTSD. Of the 29 states that have legalized medical cannabis, Alaska is the only one that does not recognize PTSD as a qualifying condition. That state, however, has legalized cannabis for all adults over 21, enabling access for adults with PTSD even if they aren’t recognized medical marijuana patients.

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Cannabis has been used by PTSD patients to successfully treat symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, and hypervigilance as well as to improve coping abilities. Researchers are currently moving forward on the first federally-approved study looking at how smoked cannabis affects PTSD. In April 2016, the US Drug Enforcement Administration greenlighted the study, led by researcher Dr. Sue Sisley. In October, the project enrolled its 30th participant.

New York’s medical marijuana law allows patients with illnesses including cancer, AIDS, and Parkinson’s disease to use consume non-smokable forms of the drug.

Other measures Cuomo signed Saturday include a bill to provide more days off for combat veterans employed by the state and a bill waiving the civil service examination fee for veterans who were honorably discharged. Cuomo also announced a new program that will allow veterans to order service branch-specific license plates showing they served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard or Marines.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Maryland May See Medical Cannabis This Month, but Diversity Issues Loom Large

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — After a four-year wait to provide medical cannabis to patients, the drug could be available to Marylanders as early as this month, according to industry stakeholders.

“I think we could see product in November, with increase in December and a steady flow from all operators in the new year,” said Wendy Bronfein, the marketing director for Curio Wellness, a company in Lutherville, Maryland, awarded two licenses to cultivate and process medical marijuana.

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However, racial diversity in the state’s medical marijuana industry is wanting, and some lawmakers said they are planning to introduce a bill early next session to grant licenses to African-American business owners.

A disparity study ordered by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in April and due in December focuses on whether minorities who sought a license in the cannabis industry were at a disadvantage.

The study was prompted after the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus raised concerns about the lack of African-American involvement in the industry.

Of the 321 business owners granted preliminary licenses to grow, distribute or process the drug, 208 were white men or women and the remaining 113 identified as a member of a minority group or as multiracial. Of these, 55 — about 17 percent — were black men and women, according to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

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“It’s shameful in a state like Maryland where we have one-third of the population of the state, one-third is African American,” said Delegate Cheryl Glenn, D-Baltimore, chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus.

“These licenses will go to, in large part, African Americans.”

Del. Cheryl Glenn

As the General Assembly’s January session approaches, members of the Black Caucus told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service they have begun drafting a bill that would award 10 new licenses for growers and processors specifically targeted at African-Americans interested in the industry.

They will move forward with their legislation regardless of the outcome of a Hogan’s disparity study, Glenn said.

“I will bank on it that we’ll come away from the table with five new licenses for growers and five new licenses for processors that will be awarded based on the results of the disparity study. What does that mean? That means these licenses will go to, in large part, African Americans,” said Glenn.

A weighted scoring system will give businesses an advantage of being awarded a particular license if they have a certain percentage of African-American ownership, Glenn said.

A “compassionate use fund” will be part of the legislation in order to make medical marijuana affordable for patients in Maryland. The fund will be financed based on the fees that licensees in the industry must pay, Glenn said.

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Marijuana is still an illegal drug, according to the federal government. Your insurance will not pay for marijuana even though it is medical marijuana. So what does that mean? That means it becomes a rich man’s struggle. We’re not gonna have that,” said Glenn, whose mother died of cancer and is the commission’s namesake.

Marylanders who are insured through the state’s Medicare and Medicaid programs will not be covered for medical cannabis, said Brittany Fowler, spokeswoman for the Maryland health department.

The legislation has been numbered Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 2, and should gain initial approval as an emergency bill during a joint hearing by the House and the Senate during the first weeks of the session — which is scheduled to start Jan. 10 — Glenn said.

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus said they intend to use the upcoming election as leverage for the bill.

“Next year is election year, so timing is everything. I am very, very sure that this is going to be taken care of,” Glenn said.

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Cannabis companies have said that the drug is likely to be available to patients this month.

ForwardGro Inc., the first licensed medical marijuana grower, successfully passed the state’s cannabis assessment this year, said Darrell Carrington, the medical cannabis director of Greenwill Consulting Group LLC.

Patients will be able to get cannabis in a variety of forms such as lotion, pills and transdermal patches, said Michael Klein, the chief operating officer of Wellness Solutions in Frederick, Maryland.

Maryland is considered to have one of the slowest medical cannabis rollouts in the nation.

The industry has been projected to open toward the end of the year, according to Brian Lopez, the chairman of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

“The industry is starting to move forward,” Lopez said late last month. “We hope we are going to have another 20 to 30 dispensaries by the end of the year and at that point we will have an industry that is starting to receive product consistently around the state. But with that we are going to also, I’m sure, see some growing pains.”

Maryland still faces a wide range of challenges as the industry starts up. The commission has not decided how to regulate how dispensaries will serve out-of-state patients, deal with the green waste from the cannabis, or address fraudulent activity within the industry, said Lopez.

“I’m sure we are going to hit road blocks, but we plan to work through them in a very consistent manner and with diligence,” Lopez said.

Maryland is considered to have one of the slowest medical cannabis rollouts in the nation, hampered by several delays that arose during the four-year process since it was legalized.

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Stakeholders in the industry have pointed to the lack of funding of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission in its beginning stages, and to lawsuits filed against the commission, as major stumbling blocks.

In 2016, GTI — Green Thumb Industries — a Bethesda, Maryland-based company that was originally awarded pre-approved licenses as a grower, filed a lawsuit against the commission for retracting its licenses in order to create geographical diversity.

The commission, which as of mid-2017 had 10 new members, made the decision to retract the license from GTI after the Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh stated in 2016 that the commission must ensure geographical diversity when choosing applicants.

GTI attempted to work with the Black Caucus to reverse the decision during the 2017 General Assembly session through legislation, which would have awarded them a license, said Delegate Pamela Queen D-Montgomery, financial secretary for the Black Caucus.

The legislation failed in the last 90 minutes of the session and there were no additional medical marijuana growing licenses given to any companies owned by minorities, Queen said.

The Legislative Black Caucus earlier this year asked Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, Charles and Calvert, and Speaker of the House Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, to reconvene the General Assembly to Annapolis for a one-day session to pass a law expanding the medical marijuana industry. However, the request was denied.

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In another lawsuit against the commission, filed in October 2016 by Alternative Medicine Maryland, a predominantly African-American owned business, Judge Barry Williams ruled in May that if he finds that the commission unlawfully disregarded racial diversity during the application process for licenses he reserves the right to revoke the licenses of those who were pre-approved.

This could ultimately shut down the industry, according to John Pica, a lobbyist and attorney representing Alternative Medicine Maryland.

Frosh also had said it would be unlawful to seek racial diversity in the application process without there being a history of racial disparities in the nascent cannabis industry.

“While it is still too soon to say for certain when we can expect a final analysis, we are encouraged and grateful to collaborate with these offices as we pursue this important work,” said Medical Cannabis Commission Executive Director Patrick Jameson, who announced his resignation from the commission on Thursday.

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Queen said she thinks that a major issue that negatively affected the industry was the poor funding the commission initially received from the state.

When the panel was created as the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission in 2013, its purpose was to oversee academic medical intuitions in distributing medical marijuana. However, the institutions were unwilling to distribute the drug because it is illegal under federal law.

In 2015, when the commission was recreated as the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission, they were given a greater responsibility to evaluate and certify businesses to grow, process and distribute the drug.

The commission received $140,795 in fiscal year 2015 and $2,540,331 in fiscal year 2017. The increase of funding over time was used to hire more employees, contractual labor, office spaces that can support the growing staff, travel expenses and to pay Towson University for scoring license applications for the industry, according to Maryland Department of Budget and Management.

Maryland Medical Marijuana Panel Director Resigning

BALTIMORE (AP) — The executive director of Maryland’s medical marijuana commission is resigning.

The panel announced Thursday that Patrick Jameson will resign, effective Nov. 30.

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Jameson says it’s been an honor to help sick people and launch a new lucrative industry in Maryland. He says the time has come for him to pursue other interests.

The commission is beginning a search for a new executive director. Jameson will assist with a transition plan. The commission says daily operations will continue as normal.

Maryland legalized medical marijuana in 2013. Delays have prevented patients from actually receiving the drug, but that could change soon. Licensed facilities may be able to distribute the drug by the end of the year or early next year.

Over 3,800 Sign up for Medical Marijuana in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — More than 3,800 patients have registered for Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program in its first week.

Qualifying conditions include AIDS, autism, cancer, chronic pain and Crohn’s disease.

Governor Tom Wolf says more than 200 caregivers have also registered for the program. He says the demand shows the “need for this vital medication.”

A 2016 state law gives people under a doctor’s care access to medical marijuana if they suffer from an illness on a list of 17 qualifying conditions.

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The law permits pills, oils, vapor or liquid marijuana, but not marijuana in plant form.

Doctors must certify the illness and patients must obtain an identification card from the health department.

Qualifying conditions include AIDS, autism, cancer, chronic pain and Crohn’s disease.

Indiana Prosecutors Insist Cannabis ‘Is Not Medicine’

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s county prosecutors remain vehemently opposed to any form of marijuana legalization and insist the plant “is not medicine” amid a push by a conservative state lawmaker to have it recognized as such.

The Association of Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys argues any type of marijuana legalization would come with grave consequences in a letter sent to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration. The letter, dated last week, was publicly released Monday.

“Reports abound of efforts to legalize marijuana in the state of Indiana,” wrote David N. Powell, the association’s executive secretary. “We respectfully ask the (administration) to formally oppose the legalization of marijuana in any form, for any purpose.”

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It comes as state Rep. Jim Lucas — a media-savvy politician better known for his outspoken opposition to gun restrictions — says he will “100 percent full-throttle” pursue medical marijuana legislation.

The libertarian-leaning lawmaker from Seymour faces long odds during the session beginning in January, but the fact that a Republican is so vocally pushing the measure marks a significant change.

Reached Tuesday for comment on the prosecutors’ letter, Lucas said: “The gloves are off.” Holcomb’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Although federal law still considers marijuana illegal, more than half of U.S. states, including some conservative ones, have legalized medical marijuana for the treatment of certain conditions.

“This is what pisses me off: we got 29 states that are ahead of us that have shown the benefits,” Lucas said. “Can it be abused? Sure, anything can be abused. But since we know this can save lives, why do we want to continue to risk the quality of life, or the wellbeing of innocent people, just because some might go out there and abuse it?”

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He suggested medical marijuana could provide an alternative to addictive painkillers.

The prosecutors association disagrees. They also say those who argue that marijuana can be used as medicine are relying on “half-truths and anecdotal evidence.” But that’s at odds with scientific studies that have found marijuana can treat chronic pain and ease nausea from chemotherapy, among other medical issues.

A federal advisory panel said in a January report that there are likely medical benefits to marijuana, but also potential risks that need to be researched more.

Powell said in his letter that a Food and Drug Administration review is the only “legally recognized procedure for bringing safe and effective medications to the American public.”

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“To date, the FDA has not found marijuana to be either safe or effective medicine for any condition,” he added.

Last year, Indiana took baby steps toward adopting medical marijuana after Holcomb signed a law allowing those with a form of epilepsy to use cannabidiol, often referred to as CBD, which is derived from cannabis plants but lacks the stuff that will get you high.

The prosecutors association opposed the measure.

In North Dakota, Usable Medical Marijuana Still a Year Away

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota officials who are setting up a medical marijuana system don’t expect the drug to be available to patients for another year — two years after voters approved it.

The timeline is disappointing to at least one marijuana advocacy group, but state Medical Marijuana Director Jason Wahl said officials worked to devise a “well-regulated program” that also places a priority on ensuring medical marijuana isn’t able to be diverted for illegal use.

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The state Health Department on Monday announced proposed administrative rules to cover such things as lab testing, security requirements and transportation regulations. The agency is taking public comments on the 50 pages of rules through Dec. 26, and has scheduled public meetings in six cities around the state next month.

The rules are to go before the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee for approval in March. The Health Department said it won’t begin the process of taking applications from potential manufacturers, dispensaries, testing labs, patients and caregivers until at least April.

“Usable marijuana is anticipated to be available to registered qualifying patients within the next 11 to 13 months,” the department said in a statement.

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The North Dakota Compassionate Care Act allows the use of medical marijuana for 17 medical conditions, along with terminal illnesses. Voters approved it in November 2016, and state lawmakers earlier this year crafted regulations that Gov. Doug Burgum approved in April.

Kenan Bullinger, who retired as director of the Health Department’s medical marijuana division at the end of October, in July offered a tentative timeline under which medical marijuana would have been available by late spring or early summer of next year. He said in August that the administrative rules process was taking longer than expected, though he still anticipated medical marijuana to be available sometime next summer. The timeline offered by the department Monday moves that estimation to late next year.

Tom Angell, chairman of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority, said enough states now have established medical marijuana systems that a two-year lag between voter approval and drug availability is “quite long” and could force some patients to choose between suffering and getting medical marijuana on the black market.

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“It’s not like anybody is asking North Dakota to invent a regulatory system for medical cannabis — those systems are in place in a number of states,” he said.

Wahl, who succeeded Bullinger on Nov. 1, said North Dakota looked at numerous states’ regulatory systems when crafting the proposed rules.

“If you were just to focus your proposed rules on one state, and could have copied and pasted, yes, the timeline would have been much shorter,” he said. “I don’t believe that would have benefited the program and the people of the state.”

Licensed Producers in Ontario Concerned Over Polluted Lands

Licensed cannabis producers in Hamilton, Ontario are at loggerheads with city officials over where their grow-ops will go.

The tussle began last month, after Liberal MPP for Hamilton Ted McMeekin and several city council members suggested restricting where medicinal cannabis growers will be able to set up greenhouses once the product is legalized.

“Any contaminants or pollutants could cause devastating crop failure, and we could not give this to our patients whatsoever.”

Ian Wilms, vice-chair of Green Organic Dutchman

Growers are critical of city council’s suggestion that they build on old industrial land instead of prime farm land, claiming the air pollution would kill their product. Representatives from Beleave and Green Organic Dutchman told the CBC that such a move would be “catastrophic.”

Ian Wilms, vice-chair of Green Organic Dutchman, told the city council’s planning committee that “any contaminants or pollutants could cause devastating crop failure, and we could not give this to our patients whatsoever.” He says as per the company’s Health Canada license, any product that is compromised must be destroyed.

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Wilms stressed that growers want to be in rural areas where air quality is better. Nevertheless, city councillor Lloyd Ferguson has suggested a limit on grow-ops in rural areas, stricter regulation, and a priority for growing food over cannabis.

Councilor Matthew Green was skeptical of the air-quality claim, noting that grow-ops are indoors and can create environments that keep out air pollution.

Councilor Matthew Green was skeptical of the air-quality claim, noting that grow-ops are indoors and can create environments that keep out air pollution.

There are currently four licensed medicinal marijuana corporations in the Hamilton area, but that number is likely to spike once cannabis is legalized in July 2018.

“If we planned properly, we could create an industry here—a green economy” on industrial land, said Councilor Green, noting that both Beleave’s and Green Organic Dutchman’s planned Hamilton expansions are that of “multinational corporations” rather than a “family farm.”

Green Organic Dutchman wants an additional 150,000 square feet to its current 7,000 square foot facility, while Beleave wants to expand its 14,000 square foot operation by an additional 80,000 square feet.

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Both companies said they would find other spaces to develop if the restrictions are imposed by the city council.

Bill Panagiotakopoulos of Beleave told Global News that the Ontario municipalities Welland, Burlington, and Caledonia have already approached them for business.

Last month, McMeekin told the Hamilton Spectator he wants industrial-sized marijuana greenhouses to stay away from land that’s fit for cultivation.

“You shouldn’t be building greenhouses on class 1 agriculture land,” said McMeekin. “You should do it on class 3 or 4 land where you can’t grow anything.”

He suggests licensed growers look to northern Ontario to build their businesses, since the region could use the jobs and economic growth.

Ohio Picks 11 Smaller Growers for Medical Marijuana Program

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio has chosen its first 11 growers for its medical marijuana program, but it could be months before they can start their first crop.

The smaller growers announced Friday by the Department of Commerce would cultivate up to 3,000 square feet. That’s a small portion of the anticipated cultivation. Up to a dozen larger growers for sites up to 25,000 square feet are expected to be announced later this month.

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The 11 chosen growers applied for sites in Butler, Clinton, Fairfield, Franklin, Lorain, Lucas, Meigs, Montgomery, Portage, Stark and Summit counties. Two companies applied for multiple locations and must decide on one.

These companies will get provisional licenses but can’t immediately begin growing cannabis. They must first get their businesses operational and have a state team visit their facilities.

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Level II Cultivator Provisional License Recipients

  • Score – 178.92 Fire Rock Ltd. (Columbus, Franklin County)
  • Score – 178.92 Fire Rock Ltd. (Canton, Stark County)
  • Score – 178.92 Fire Rock Ltd. (Arkon, Summit County)
  • Score – 176.76 FN Group Holdings LLC (Ravenna, Portage County)
  • Score – 172.00 Mother Grows Best LLC (Canton, Stark County)
  • Score – 168.76 OhiGrow LLC (Toledo, Lucas County)
  • Score – 168.76 Ancient Roots LLC (Wilmington, Clinton County)
  • Score – 160.56 Ohio Clean Leaf LLC (Dayton, Montgomery County)
  • Score – 160.56 Ohio Clean Leaf LLC (Carroll, Fairfield County)
  • Score – 157.08 Ascension BioMedical LLC (Oberlin, Lorain County)
  • Score – 156.60 Agri-Med Ohio LLC (Langsville, Meigs County)
  • Score – 154.56 Paragon Development Group LLC (Huber Heights, Montgomery County)
  • Score – 151.28 Hemma LLC (Monroe, Butler County)
  • Score – 148.92 Galenas LLC (Akron, Summit County)

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tennessee Democrats Vote to Support Medical Marijuana

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Democrats have voted to support resolutions calling for the legalization of medical marijuana, wider health care coverage and a $15 minimum wage.

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The state executive committee passed the resolutions aimed at expressing the positions of the state Democratic Party.

State lawmakers have been studying the issue of medical marijuana since the end of the last legislative session.

Executive committee member Gary Blackburn said there is a “growing body of research about the benefits” of medical marijuana, including for the treatment of chronic pain. He says changing the law could also help combat the opioid epidemic.

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Executive Committee Member Gale Jones Carson of Memphis says raising the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour would help lift more Tennesseans out of poverty.