Which states will be voting on medical marijuana this year is becoming clearer, but is not completely settled; a new study finds that marijuana is not implicated with bad organ transplant outcomes, and more.
Last Friday, a study found that marijuana use is not associated with bad organ transplant outcomes. A peer-reviewed study from the journal Clinical Transplantation finds that marijuana use is not contraindicated in kidney transplants. "[R]ecreational marijuana use should not be considered a contraindication to kidney transplantation," the authors concluded. "[R]ecreational marijuana use should be systematically evaluated in a larger setting before a decision is made on what, if any, degree of use or abuse should be considered a relative or absolute contraindication, or whether use or abuse should be considered a contraindication." Even in jurisdictions that allow for medical marijuana use, hospitals routinely disqualify patients with a marijuana history from eligibility for organ transplants.
As of Tuesday, these four states will definitely be voting on medical marijuana initiatives in November. Get a look at the details of and prospects for medical marijuana initiatives that have officially qualified for the November ballot in Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota. There is also an Oklahoma initiative that may still qualify (see below), a second Arkansas initiative that may qualify, and a Montana anti-marijuana initiative that is appealing come up short on signatures.
Last Friday, a second medical marijuana initiative looked set to qualify for the ballot. There's already one medical marijuana initiative on the ballot, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, but there could be another. Backers of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment handed in additional signatures last Friday after they came up short in the original round of petitioning. The amendment needed 84,589 valid voter signatures, but only came up with 72,000 valid ones on July 8. Being so close, however, qualified the amendment for a second round of signature gathering, and it has now handed in another 35,000 raw signatures, meaning it should now qualify. If both initiatives appear on the ballot and both pass, the one with the most votes will become law.
On Wednesday, prohibitionists went to court to block the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act. A group calling itself Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana Wednesday asked the state Supreme Court to block the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act from appearing on the November ballot. The measure has already qualified, but the group's lawsuit claims the wording of the proposal is misleading and omits key information.
Last Thursday, the prospect of possible legalization was spurring a rush for medical marijuana licenses. More than 750 people or groups have submitted applications for 31 medical marijuana dispensary licenses to be awarded in October. Medical marijuana license holders will get first crack at new adult use licenses if the Prop 205 legalization initiative passes.
On Monday, a group of DAs sought to block New Approach Missouri's challenge on invalidated signatures. A dozen state prosecutors have filed legal action to block the New Approach Missouri medical marijuana initiative from getting on the ballot. The group is challenging official signature counts that say it came up short, but the DAs argue that that isn't the real issue. They argue that the state cannot put on the ballot issues that would result in laws in conflict with US law.
Last Thursday, an anti-marijuana initiative failed to qualify for the ballot, but will challenge the signature shortfall. An initiative seeking to repeal the state's medical marijuana law has failed to qualify for the November ballot after coming up short on valid signatures. The Safe Montana campaign claims the state improperly rejected or lost signatures and has filed suit to challenge the state's decision. Meanwhile, the I-182 initiative, which would rebuild the state's largely gutted medical marijuana program, has already qualified for the ballot.
On Tuesday, a medical marijuana initiative took a giant step toward qualifying for the ballot. Secretary of State Chris Benge announced Tuesday that a medical marijuana initiative, State Question 788, has handed in 67,761 valid voter signatures. It only needs 65,987 to qualify for the November ballot, but there are still a couple more hurdles to overcome. The secretary of state's office must send a report on its findings to the state Supreme Court, which will then determine if the number of signatures is enough to put the initiative on the ballot.
Last Friday, the state took a step forward in implementing its medical marijuana system. The state Health Department has released a draft of the rules for the state's nascent medical marijuana industry. The more than 90 pages of draft regulations create a roadmap for aspiring medical marijuana growers and processors who are competing for 25 lucrative permits.
[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]
Michigan legalizers lose a court battle, Oklahoma medical marijuana advocates look to be heading for the ballot box, the 10th Circuit rules that having license plates from marijuana states is not sufficient reason for a stop and search, and more.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Michigan Legalizers Lose Court Bid to Get on Ballot. The backers of the MI Legalize legalization initiative have struck out in court in their bid to get their measure on this year's ballot. The group had collected some 354,000 signatures, well above the 220,00 required, but more than 200,000 of the signatures were gathered outside a 180-day window that the State Board of Canvassers was the only time signatures could be considered. The campaign argued that the 180-day rule was unconstitutional and unfair, but the state Court of Claims ruled Wednesday that the Board of Canvassers was correct. The campaign says it will appeal to the state Supreme Court, but the election clock is ticking and time is running out.
These Four States Will Definitely Be Voting on Medical Marijuana in November. Get a look at the details of and prospects for medical marijuana initiatives that have officially qualified for the November ballot in Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota. There is also an Oklahoma initiative that may still qualify (see below), a second Arkansas initiative that may qualify, and a Montana anti-marijuana initiative that is appealing come up short on signatures.
Arkansas Prohibitionists Go to Court to Block Medical Marijuana Initiative. A group calling itself Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana Wednesday asked the state Supreme Court to block the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act from appearing on the November ballot. The measure has already qualified, but the group's lawsuit claims the wording of the proposal is misleading and omits key information.
Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Initiative Has Enough Signatures, But Is Not on the Ballot Yet. Secretary of State Chris Benge announced Tuesday that a medical marijuana initiative, State Question 788, has handed in 67,761 valid voter signatures. It only needs 65,987 to qualify for the November ballot, but there are still a couple more hurdles to overcome. The secretary of state's office must send a report on its findings to the state Supreme Court, which will then determine if the number of signatures is enough to put the initiative on the ballot.
Report Finds Women Increasingly Jailed for Drug Offenses. A new report from the Vera Institute for Justice finds that the arrest rate for drug possession for women tripled between 1980 and 2009 and that 29% of women in jails were there for drug offenses. Two-thirds of those women are black or Hispanic, and nearly 80% are mothers, largely single mothers. The report called for localities to adopt cite and release policies and/or decriminalizing drug possession.
Search and Seizure
Marijuana State License Plate is No Reason for Police Stops and Searches, Fed Court Rules. In a case involving a Colorado man pulled over in Kansas, the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that police violated his constitutional rights by stopping and searching him based primarily on the fact that he came from a state that was a "known drug source." Cops can't do that, the court ruled bluntly. To allow such a practice would justify searching drivers from the 25 states that allow medical or fully legal marijuana. "It is time to abandon the pretense that state citizenship is a permissible basis upon which to justify the detention and search of out-of-state motorists, and time to stop the practice of detention of motorists for nothing more than an out-of-state license plate," Circuit Judge Carlos Lucero wrote in the opinion. "Absent a demonstrated extraordinary circumstance, the continued use of state residency as a justification for the fact of or continuation of a stop is impermissible," he added.
Philippines President Could Face International Tribunal Over Drug War Killings, Senators Say. President Rodrigo Duterte could be charged with crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the wave of killings of alleged drug users and sellers since he took office two months ago, according to Sen. Leila de Lima. “There are some experts who are saying that… if this spate of killings go unabated and unchecked, it could reach that point that the ICC could send a prosecutor to our country and investigate all these for possible prosecution under the Rome Statute,” she was quoted saying. “This is not a joke. The last thing we need right now is for our dear president to be subjected to an investigation by an international tribunal like the International Criminal Court. I am not threatening the president. I am just stating a fact,” she added.
This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.
It's been 20 years since California punched through pot prohibition and became the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. Now, 23 states have medical marijuana laws, and more than a dozen more have taken the half-step of legalizing the medicinal use of cannabidiol (CBD) only -- not raw marijuana.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]While some of the early medical marijuana states have now moved on to full legalization -- and more are set to this year -- states in the South and the Plains are just beginning to embrace the therapeutic use of the herb. This year could see medical marijuana finally assert itself in Dixie and on the Northern Plains.
Medical marijuana is amazingly popular nationwide. A June Quinnipiac poll had support at a whopping 89%. That same month, a Prevention Magazine poll had support at 75%, not nearly as stratospheric, but still very impressive. Support won't be as strong in states where it is on the ballot this year, but should still be strong enough to get voter initiatives over the top.
There are four states where medical marijuana initiatives are approved for the ballot this year, but before we get to those, there are still a handful of loose ends to mention. In Missouri, an initiative campaign is challenging a signature count that had it fail to qualify for the ballot; in Arkansas, a second medical marijuana initiative, this one a constitutional amendment, is still trying to gather signatures (update: that measure has now qualified for the ballot); in Oklahoma, an initiative has just passed a signature-gathering hurdle but has yet to qualify, and in Montana, an anti-medical marijuana initiative is challenging a signature count that found it coming up short. These are all long-shots at this point, but the efforts aren't definitively dead.
In the meantime, the four states definitely voting on medical marijuana in November are:
Arkansas -- The 2016 Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act. A similar initiative was narrowly defeated in 2012, and Arkansans for Compassionate Care hopes to get over the hump this year. The initiative would allow patients suffering from a long list of qualifying diseases or conditions to use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. Patients could possess up to 2 ½ ounces and could grow five plants and 12 seedlings if they live more than 20 miles from a "care center." They could also have a designated caregiver grow for them, with a limit of five patients per caregiver. There would be at least 39 non-profit care centers across the state.
[image:2 align:right]It's going to be a low-budget campaign. ACC says it has raised $15,000 and has a goal of $80,000. There is no significant organized opposition.
The polling is looking favorable. An Arkansas Poll from last November had support for medical marijuana at 68%, with only 26% opposed, while a June Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll had support at 58%, with 34% opposed.
Florida -- Amendment 2. Medical marijuana backers organized as United for Care were narrowly defeated in 2014 although they won 58% of the vote. That's because their initiative was a constitutional amendment requiring a 60% majority, and so is this one. It would allow patients suffering from a specified list of qualifying diseases or conditions to use medical marijuana upon a doctor's recommendation. The amount they could possess will be determined by the Department of Health. Patients could not grow their own, but would be able to purchase it at state-regulated "Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers."
This is going to be a big bucks campaign in a high-population state, just as it was last time. In 2014, Las Vegas casino billionaire and hard right Daddy Warbucks Sheldon Adelson kicked in more than $5 million to the "no" campaign. This year, he's been quiet so far, but Florida arch-drug warrior Mel Sembler has kicked in $500,000 for the opposition Drug Free Florida, and Publix supermarket heiress Carol Jenkins Barnett gave $800,000 more. United for Care has largely been bankrolled by Florida attorney and Democratic strategist Roger Morgan. It took in more than $3 million last year, spending most of it on signature gathering, and has only raised $555,000 so far this year, although Morgan's deep pockets could come through again in the home stretch.
Even with the needed 60% majority, the polling looks good. In eight polls since January 2015, the lowest support level recorded was 61% and the highest was 80%. But the opposition is going to use that fat campaign war chest to chip away at public support.
Montana -- Initiative 182. Voters in Big Sky County approved medical marijuana in 2004, but when the scene grew too bustling, the state's conservative legislature struck back with a vengeance. In 2011, Republicans in Helena essentially gutted the medical marijuana system, shutting down dispensaries and limiting caregivers and doctors. The Montana Medical Marijuana Act repeals the limit of three patients for each licensed provider, and allows providers to hire employees to cultivate, dispense, and transport medical marijuana. It also repeals the requirement that physicians who provide certifications for 25 or more patients annually be referred to the board of medical examiners, and it removes the authority of law enforcement to conduct unannounced inspections of medical marijuana facilities, instead requiring annual inspections by the state. Patients could continue to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and four plants and 12 seedlings. The initiative also adds PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions.
[image:3 align:left]There doesn't appear to be any recent polling on the initiative's prospects. Montana voters have approved medical marijuana in the past, but the earlier phase of medical marijuana expansion sparked a harsh reaction, and the state remains divided over the issue. After a lengthy court fight, some of the restrictions approved in 2011 will go into effect at the end of this month, and cries of lost patient access may bend public opinion.
There doesn't appear to be any significant fundraising or spending by either side in this campaign.
North Dakota -- Question 5. Also known as the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act and sponsored by North Dakotans for Compassionate Care, the initiative would allow people suffering from a list of specified medical conditions to use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. The initiative envisions a system of non-profit "compassion centers," which could grow and sell medical marijuana. Patients living more than 40 miles from a compassion center could grow up to 8 plants, but they must notify local law enforcement in writing. The initiative also includes a creepy provision allowing the Health Department to "perform on-site interviews of a qualified patient or primary caregiver to determine eligibility for the program" and to "enter the premises of a qualified patient or primary caregiver during business hours for purposes of interviewing a program applicant," with 24 hours notice. Patients could purchase up to three ounces of marijuana every two weeks.
The polling data is as scarce as the trees on the North Dakota prairie, but a 2014 poll had support for medical marijuana at 47%, with 41% opposed.
There doesn't appear to be any significant fundraising or spending by either side in this campaign, either.
Will medical marijuana go four for four this year? It seems likely, but we're going to have to wait for November 8 to know for sure.
Relative Addictive Properties of Various Commonly Used Drugs
Source: Dr. Jack E. Henningfield, Ph.D. for NIDA. Reported by: Philip J. Hilts, New York Times, Aug. 2, 1994 "Is Nicotine Addictive? It Depends on Whose Criteria You Use."
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Top Stories On The Web
Boston Globe, 23 Aug 2016 - Boston City Councilor Mark Ciommo is again facing criticism this week for not backing a locally run company that wants to open a medical marijuana dispensary in his Allston neighborhood. Instead of supporting Compassionate Organics, Ciommo is steadfast in his backing of rival Mayflower Medicinals, a company that has hired the councilor's political consultant and close friend Frank Perullo.
Baltimore Sun, 23 Aug 2016 - Black Lawmakers Say Cannabis Licensees Lack Racial Diversity The head of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland is asking the governor to intervene in the awarding of medical cannabis licenses because the selected companies lack diversity, denying minorities the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an emerging industry.
The Citizens' Voice, 22 Aug 2016 - State among several to allow treatment not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Pennsylvania and the federal government disagree about the usefulness of marijuana as medicine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn't approved marijuana as safe and effective for treating any illness, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as recently as Aug. 11 kept marijuana in the same drug category as heroin, LSD and ecstasy.
Hamilton Spectator, 20 Aug 2016 - Draft regulations consider freelance dispensaries illegal It turns out police have already raided at least two Hamilton storefront medical marijuana sellers this year. The raids raise questions about the fate of all self-styled dispensaries in the city - particularly since newly released draft regulations for medical marijuana now specifically label freelance storefront sellers as illegal.
The Peterborough Examiner, 18 Aug 2016 - Gage has a rare and incurable neurological disorder, and the drug has proven to help NAPANEE - A Napanee-area marijuana facility is now able to sell its medical product to patients in need, and a mother says her son is benefitting from the development.
Airdrie City View, 18 Aug 2016 - If you mention laws surrounding the use of marijuana, you are likely to get an earful of differing opinions. But when it comes to medical marijuana, there seems to be at least some lenience on negative views. According to Health Canada, under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, Canadians who have been authorized by their health care practitioner to access cannabis for medical purposes will continue to have the option of purchasing safe, quality-controlled cannabis from one of the 34 producers licensed by Health Canada. Canadians will also be able to produce a limited amount of cannabis for their own medical purposes, or designate someone to produce it for them.
Nelson Star, 19 Aug 2016 - The lawyer who successfully overturned the former Conservative government's ban on the home growing of medical marijuana is praising a move by the federal Liberals to create a new licensing system for doctor-approved patients. Kirk Tousaw said the new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, which take effect Aug. 24, appear to be much the same as the old home growing licenses that prevailed until 2014 when the Conservative government tried to outlaw them and force approved patients to buy only from licensed commercial producers.
Toronto Star, 18 Aug 2016 - With dispensaries outnumbering ice cream shops in some parts of Toronto, a casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that marijuana is legal in Canada. Pot has always fallen in somewhat of a "grey area" - compassion clubs, for instance, have operated since the 1990s - but this is something altogether different. Make no mistake: at least for now, these neighbourhood drug stores are prohibited by law (subject to certain constitutional arguments available to those selling to documented medical patients). Owners, employees and customers face potential criminal charges; owners can also be prosecuted and fined under municipal zoning and licensing bylaws; and health practitioners issuing prescriptions can be disciplined by their professional regulator.
London Free Press, 18 Aug 2016 - A businessperson whose London pot shop was raided by police days after opening is digging in for another battle with authorities. Police swooped down on Tasty Budd's medical marijuana dispensary on Whancliffe Road Wednesday, seizing its inventory and arresting two men. The store had opened only six days earlier. Mal McMeekin, founder of the Tasty Budd's franchise, which opened in defiance of the law, is thumbing his nose at police, again. "The plan is to reopen, for sure," McMeekin said from Halifax. "I feel that it's an unnecessary use of taxpayers' money to raid something where we're just helping people." McMeekin and business partner Tim Balogh didn't consult London police before opening the shop last Friday. It sells marijuana, hash oil and cannabis-infused edibles to medicinal marijuana users. Though an estimated 350 pot dispensaries operate across Canada, they 're illegal - despite the Liberal government's pledge to liberalize Canada's pot laws - under a federal law that limits the sale of marijuana to a few dozen producers approved by Ottawa. Dispensary operators argue they provide a needed service for people who use marijuana for medical reasons.