By Steve Elliott
At least 20 lawmakers in the Philippines have signed on as co-authors of a bill which would legalize marijuana for medical purposes.
House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora is among the supporters of the bill, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, House Bill 4477, filed by Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, reports Maricel Cruz at the Manila Standard.
"Right now, the bill has been backed by at least 20 lawmakers, and counting," Albano said. "For the record, the measure would not decriminalize the sale and use of marijuana as this is intended for medical purposes. It is just a matter of explaining to them what the bill is all about."
House Minority Leader Zamora said it's time for the Phillippine Congress to open its discussions on the medical benefits of cannabis. "We are in agreement that marijuana for medicinal -- strictly medicinal purposes -- should be examined," he said. "For recreational purposes, that's an entirely different issue."
House Deputy Minority Leader Rep. John Jorge Banal Jr., from Quezon City, said Albano's measure has a chance of being approved in Congress, as it would help patients suffering from serious illnesses that could be helped by medical marijuana.
Florida's Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana in the Sunshine State, is leading with a lop-sided margin in the polls. With change seemingly on the way, the Florida Medical Marijuana Institute's Regulatory Seminars are aimed at entrepreneurs and investors, doctors, lawyers and pharmacy owners across Florida, who seek insight into Florida's likely regulatory landscape.
"People ask us, 'How will your Regulatory Seminar address regulations that haven't yet been issued?'" said Jan Frel, director at the Florida MMTC Institute, a business education school offering a Regulatory Seminar on July 12 at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Downtown Miami. "There is an abundance of useful information to use as a guide for Florida's likely regulatory scenarios; the right mix of experts can provide invaluable business guidance."
Regulatory seminars will be offered every three weeks through November, according to the Institute.
The Institute draws its analysis from the Amendment 2 language on Florida's November ballot, the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act approved by the Florida Legislature in May, regulatory approaches in other medical marijuana states, and current Florida statutes regulating related industries, such as the production and distribution of alcohol and pharmaceuticals.
By Steve Elliott
Iowa's new CBD-only medical marijuana law takes effect July 1, a month after being signed by Governor Terry Branstad. The governor, like many other Republicans, had previously been a firm opponent of medical marijuana, but he signed this bill to allow parents to buy cannabis-based cannabidiol (CBD) oil to reduce their children's seizures.
Two-year-old Quinn Stumpf and her parents, April and Chad, played a big role in the passage of the bill, a very narrowly defined law that marks Iowa's first venture into medical marijuana, reports Josh O'Leary at the Iowa City Press-Citizen. The Stumpf family visited Des Moines several times in recent months; one one of the trips, the parent sat down with Gov. Branstad in his office, and Quinn made an appearance on the Senate floor.
Quinn, who has a severe neurological disease, is on a long list of medicaitons and has endured more than 150 doctor visits and eight hospitalizations in her two years of life. "She's in pain, it seems like, all the time," April said of her daughter.
"They haven't given us the best prognosis for Quinn, but to know she's helped make a difference in so many lives and touched so many people, for her to have done that at such a young age is something we're really proud of," April said. "No matter what happens with her, we know she's made an impact on so many lives."
By Steve Elliott
John Morgan, the man who has led the fight to legalize medical marijuana in Florida, has donated $4 million more of his own money to the campaign.
Morgan is pushing to pass Amendment 2, and he says it's for his dad, his brother, and others who may suffer from debilitating diseases, reports Kendra Conlon at WTSP.
"It's all frivolous until it happens to you," John's brother Tim Morgan said. Tim broke his back in 1977 in a lifeguarding accident; he's now quadriplegic, with excruciating pain that has only gotten worse over the decades.
"I had cancer in 2003 and a pacemaker put in two years ago," said Tim, who added that medical marijuana gets him through the day as director of Morgan and Morgan. "You just break out in a sweat for no reason; you smoke pot and it stops. Why? I don't know; I don't care. It works."
"With my dad, he was dying from emphysema," John Morgan said. "It gave him appetite on Day 1, and it took away his anxiety."
If Amendment 2 passes with 60 percent or more of the vote (as a constitutional amendment, it needs more than a simple majority), it would allow doctors to authorize patients to use medical marijuana, with the state regulating production and distribution.
"I have never met one person -- because there's none -- who has ever died from a marijuana overdose, ever," John said. "It's so simple and so easy, and that's why I think it's going to pass."
By Steve Elliott
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is cracking down on the state's booming cottage industry of medical marijuana caregivers who have been selling cannabis to meet the demand created by the state's medical marijuana law, adopted 18 months ago.
The state has sent letters to more than 1,300 patients, along with 17 caregivers, warning them that state regulations may prohibit any caregiver from selling marijuana to more than one patient, according to David Kibbe, spokesman for the Department of Health, report Shelley Murphy and Kay Lazar at The Boston Globe.
The caregivers are the only legal avenue for Massachusetts patients to buy medical marijuana until storefront dispensaries start to open -- and that won't happen before November at the earliest. Many of the caregivers advertise on the Internet.
The action angered many patients who rely on cannabis to relieve their symptoms.
"I have been put in a terrible situation," said David Tamarin, 41, a lawyer from North Andover whose doctor authorized him to use medical marijuana for chronic back pain and anxiety. Tamarin said he was outraged by the letter telling him he had to find another caregiver -- one who was not serving any other patients.
"The legalization of medical marijuana should make it easier, not more difficult, for a patient to get his medicine," Tamarind said.
Senate Law and Justice Committee votes in favor of bill that would allow seriously ill Pennsylvanians to use marijuana to treat their medical conditions
The Pennsylvania Senate Law and Justice Committee on Friday voted unanimously to approve a bill that would make it legal for seriously ill patients to use marijuana to treat their conditions with recommendations from their doctors. This is the first time medical marijuana legislation has been considered in Pennsylvania.
The bill is expected to go to the Senate Appropriations Committee for a vote next, before going to the full Senate.
SB 1182, sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) and Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery), would allow qualified patients to obtain medical marijuana from a limited number of licensed, regulated dispensaries throughout the state. Smoking would not be permitted, but patients could consume marijuana in edible form or through vaporization of the plant or its extracts.
(This trend towards "non-smoking" medical marijuana bills, by the way, is absurd, and also goes against accepted medical practice of letting physicians and their patients decide upon the most appropriate and effective routes of administration.)
Home cultivation would also not be allowed under the bill. Patients under the age of 18 would be required to have parental consent in order to take part in the program.
A companion bill, HB 2182, was introduced in the House with 46 co-sponsors, but has not yet received a hearing.
By Steve Elliott
A medical marijuana farmers market is opening this Independence Day weekend in Los Angeles. It's being billed the "world's first marijuana farmers market" by clueless reporters, but of course anybody with an ability to fact check knows the world's first happened three years ago, in Washington state, which now hosts at least half a dozen of them.
The California Heritage Market says it wants to foster a better relationship between medical marijuana patients and growers. "We're hoping that the California Heritage Market can bridge this gap and provide a new and affordable experience for those who need safe access they can trust," said executive administrator Paizley Bradbury.
"It's going to be so much easier for patients to get their medicine at a more affordable rate, and something that they can trust," Bradbury told TIME Magazine's Giri Nathan. "They can say 'How did you grow this? Is it organic? What kind of nutrients did you use? What kind of strain is this?' There's just so much more behind it."
The market is scheduled to take place July 4-6 between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. in East Los Angeles at the new West Coast Collective dispensary at 1500 Esperanza Street. It plans to open every weekend, provided it doesn't encounter any legal obstacles.
"With this industry, you just never really know how things are going to turn out until after you do it," Bradbury said.
By Steve Elliott
The North Carolina Senate unanimously passed a CBD-only medical marijuana bill on Thursday; the bill had already cleared the House 112 to 1 last week, and now awaits the signature of Governor Pat McCrory, who said he plans to sign the bill into law.
"This law will help ease the suffering endured by children from whom no other treatments are effective against seizures," Gov. McCrory said, reports Matthew Burns at WRAL. "I want to congratulate the General Assembly for crafting a bill that not only improves the lives of many North Carolina children and their parents, but also provides common-sense regulation and facilitates clinical research at our major research universities."
"This is helpful to a lot of kids where nothing else seems to help," said state Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson). "This will put North Carolina on the cutting edge of this type of epilepsy."
The "Hope 4 Haley and Friends" bill, named for six-year-old Haley Ward of Newport, who suffers from daily seizures, allows the medicinal use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil derived from the marijuana plant for the treatment of seizure disorders, particularly those afflicting children, reports Chad Silber at WFMY. Cannabidiol -- unlike THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis -- doesn't produce a "high."
By Steve Elliott
When Minnesota lawmakers passed a medical marijuana law last month, they left out the largest potential group of patients in the state: those with chronic pain. They did so on purpose.
But the debate isn't over, reports John Welsh at MinnPost, and the outcome could determine whether Minnesota's medical marijuana program helps a few thousand people -- or a few hundred thousand.
Medical marijuana advocates got their first victory in the state last month after more than a decade of effort at the Capitol. The new law covers nine conditions, including cancer and epilepsy, with each category expected to generate from 100 to 1,000 patients.
In all, Minnesota estimates there will be 5,000 patients in the program, which is scheduled to begin providing marijuana on July 1, 2015.
In states like Colorado and Oregon, at least 94 percent of medical marijuana patient participants list chronic pain as their qualifying diagnosis. Minnesota officials estimated that adding "intractable pain" to the list of qualifying diagnoses would add about 33,000 patients to the program, but there is some evidence that estimate might be low.
State officials based their estimates on patient participation in Arizona's medical marijuana program, but Arizona has a low participation rate of just 0.7 percent of state residents. In Oregon, the rate is 1.5 percent; in Colorado, the rate is 2.2 percent.
By Steve Elliott
Police in some medical marijuana states -- who once ripped up marijuana plants by the roots without a second thought, or just stashed them away to die -- are now reevaluating the practice.
Police departments from Colorado and Washington to Hawaii and California are being sued by people who want their cannabis back after prosecutors chose not to charge them, or they were acquitted, reports Sadie Gurman at The Associated Press.
Some former suspects are asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash compensation to replace dead plants that the cops either uprooted, or left to die in evidence rooms.
Police departments in some municipalities have, therefore, either stopped rounding up the plants, or have started collecting just a few samples and photographing the rest to use as evidence in court.
"None of us are really sure what we're supposed to do, and so you err on the side of caution," claimed Mitch Barker, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.
The evolving paradigm under which cannabis is now viewed as medicine rather than as a dangerous scourge which must be wiped out is responsible for the changing ways police departments deal with the question.
"Law enforcement is going to have to think more carefully about what their procedures are and how those procedures might need to change in light of changes in the law," said University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin.
By Steve Elliott
The city council in Austin, Texas this week will consider a resolution supporting medical marijuana in the Lone Star State.
Two council members, Bill Spelman and Mike Martinez, are supporting the resolution, reports Quita Culpepper at KVUE, and some Austin parents and patients are rallying behind the cause.
The resolution supports legislation that would provide a legal defense for Texas patients using cannabis medicinally and being treated by a doctor. It also supports the legalization of medical marijuana.
Thalia Michelle believes medical cannabis could help her nine-year-old son, Lance, who is autistic. "It could help with his hyperactivity, cognition, focus, even speech," she said. "This isn't just about smoking for nausea and pain anymore."
Michelle is executive director of a group called Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism. She said that parents in states where medical marijuana is legal are giving cannabis oil to their autistic children, which she said is giving many families hope for the future.
"We found that it wasn't only helping with seizures and life-threatening epilepsy but with a host, a myriad, of special-needs conditions," Michelle said. "We're simply asking the council to add this to our legislative priorities as a bill we would support."
By Steve Elliott
A website known as the "Priceline of pot" allows medical marijuana patients to compare cannabis costs at 1,100 dispensaries in six states, according to Wikileaf founder Dan Nelson.
Nelson, a financial blogger, said based the site on the interest rate comparison model for banks, reports Jolie Lee of the USA TODAY Network. "I thought the same dynamic could be applied to the medical and legal marijuana businesses," Nelson said.
Users of the site can set how much they want to pay, and how many miles they can travel for marijuana. They have to actually travel to the listed dispensaries to complete the purchase. Favorite strains can also be located.
Sites such as Wikileaf, along with competitors Weedmaps, Leafly and THC Finder, give dispensaries the opportunity for exposure. Nelson said Wikileaf is different, because the other sites are focused on user ratings.
His site, Nelson said, is the first to offer price comparisons. "I'd go to a dispensary that offered me a strain for this amount of money, and I'd walk two blocks down, and a dispensary would offer me twice as much for the same amount of money," Nelson said.
By Steve Elliott
A group supporting medical marijuana is walking across North Carolina with the aim of convincing lawmakers to act on the issue.
The group, March Against Fear, has been walking across the state since June 6, reports Steve Sbraccia at WNCN News. They started in Asheville, highlighting their journey with clips on YouTube.
One of the members is shown carrying a plastic marijuana plant in the videos. The others carry signs and stop along the way to raise support for House Bill 1161, which would create a constitutional amendment to legalize the medical use of cannabis in North Carolina.
In the meantime, the North Carolina House last week passed another measure, HB 1220, which would allow the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil, an extract of medical marijuana that's been known to quell epileptic seizures in children.
HB 1220 now moves to the North Carolina Senate. If it's approved there, it will go to the desk of Governor Pat McCrory, who can either sign the bill or veto it.
Some families have moved from North Carolina to Colorado, where CBD oil is already legal. But those families said they would move back home to North Carolina if the use of CBD oil is legalized there.
By Steve Elliott
Hillary Clinton supports the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes "under appropriate circumstances" and thinks medical marijuana should be researched, she said in a Tuesday interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour. Clinton said she's taking a "wait and see" approach to recreational use.
"At the risk of committing radical candor, I have to say I think we need to be very clear about the benefits of marijuana use for medicinal purposes," Clinton said on CNN. "I don't think we've done enough research yet, although I think for people who are in extreme medical conditions and who have anecdotal evidence that it works, there should be availability under appropriate circumstances."
"But I do think we need more research because we don't know how it interacts with our drugs," she said. (Actually, we know quite a bit about how cannabis reacts with other drugs, as it's one of the most studied substances in history.)
"On recreational, states are the laboratories of democracy," Clinton said. "We have at least two states that are experimenting with that right now. I want to wait and see what the evidence is."
Clinton said she'd never personally tried marijuana, nor did she plan to. "Absolutely not," she said. "I didn't do it when I was young; I'm not going to start now."
Hope is On the Way for Thousands of Seriously Ill New Yorkers, Despite Flawed Bill
Patients, Caregivers and Healthcare Providers Praise Lawmakers and Vow to Fight for Improvements
By Steve Elliott
The New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly on Friday passed a medical marijuana bill, making New York the 23rd state to create legal access to medical marijuana for seriously ill patients. After days of tense negotiations, the bill was passed in the final hours of the legislative session on Friday.
Governor Cuomo has said he will sign the bill into law. The bill will provide relief for thousands of New York patients suffering from serious and debilitating conditions – such as cancer, MS, and epilepsy, by allowing the use of medical marijuana under the supervision of their physician.
Patients, caregivers and providers watched from the gallery as the Senate debated and then voted 49 to 10 in favor of the bill.
Late last week, Governor Cuomo announced a series of last-minute changes that he wanted to the bill. The bill’s sponsors, Assemblyman Dick Gottfried and Senator Diane Savino, worked tirelessly to accommodate the Governor’s concerns so that a deal could move forward.