Tag: medical cannabis

Rest in Peace Charlotte Figi, Your Strength Saved Lives and Changed the World

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted all of our lives, causing immense pain and grief across our nation and globe. One thing that I have learned during this crisis is to better appreciate that there are people who live their entire lives in a constant state of emergency and those people need help, support, and hope.

I imagine that there can be no greater sense of despair than watching your child suffer. Unfortunately, this is an all-too common part of life for too many people. Hearts around the world were changed when they learned about the suffering of Charlotte Figi and her family because of Dravet syndrome. Cannabis extracts improved her life and the world was changed for the better. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, Charlotte passed away yesterday at just 13 years of age. May she rest in peace and power, forever. My heart goes out to her parents Matt and Paige, her family, and everyone mourning the loss of a special angel warrior.

Most people first learned about Charlotte’s plight from Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s special “Weed” and that mainstream attention changed the debate around medical cannabis and cannabis in general. Here’s an excerpt from the CNN piece “Marijuana stops child’s severe seizures“:

Today, Charlotte, 6, is thriving. Her seizures only happen two to three times per month, almost solely in her sleep. Not only is she walking, she can ride her bicycle. She feeds herself and is talking more and more each day.
“I literally see Charlotte’s brain making connections that haven’t been made in years,” Matt said. “My thought now is, why were we the ones that had to go out and find this cure? This natural cure? How come a doctor didn’t know about this? How come they didn’t make me aware of this?”
The marijuana strain Charlotte and now 41 other patients use to ease painful symptoms of diseases such as epilepsy and cancer has been named after the little girl who is getting her life back one day at a time.
It’s called Charlotte’s Web.

In this life, we can only hope to impact as many lives that Charlotte did. The Charlotte’s Web strain was named after her and countless people will have their lives saved and improved thanks to her strength. While my heart aches for her family, I’m glad that we live in a world where brave people like Charlotte and her family stand up and change the world for the better.

New Jersey Supreme Court Protects Medical Cannabis Patients Employment

I know that it is hard to focus on much of anything other than the coronavirus these days, but one thing that the pandemic has brought to light is the importance of quality healthcare services. For many patients across the country, medical cannabis, recommended by their doctor, is a vital component of their healthcare. Unfortunately, most states still allow all kinds of discrimination against cannabis patients, including in the workforce. In a positive development, the New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled that legal patients cannot be fired for utilizing medical cannabis outside their place of employment, as NJ.com reported:

As long as employees are not under the influence of the drug at work, the state Supreme Court said medical marijuana patients remain protected by the Law Against Discrimination, echoing an earlier appellate court decision.

While Tuesday’s case involved one former funeral home director who lost his job, the implications are broad.

“This protects hundreds, if not thousands of employees” who’ve faced the “stigma of marijuana,” said Jamison Mark, a lawyer for the former director. The ruling ensured that discrimination law and the state’s Compassionate Use Act were not at odds, he said.

This is a HUGE victory for New Jersey patients that should be replicated across the land. I would argue that most jobs, especially ones that don’t involve any dangerous activities, shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate against anyone’s use of cannabis away from work, it is extremely important that patient rights be protected. Let’s work to make sure that the New Jersey Supreme Court’s sensible decision protecting medical cannabis patients’ employment rights gets replicated from coast to coast.

Brave Navy Veteran Fights for Medical Cannabis Patients Rights to Housing

Our veterans and their families sacrifice so much for our nation that it is heartbreaking to hear of anytime that they aren’t treated fairly. Unfortunately, Mary Cease, a Navy veteran, is facing housing discrimination because of her medical cannabis use because she was honest about her use of medical cannabis, legal under state law. Fortunately, this Navy veteran is a warrior who is fighting for her rights in an effort that will hopefully lead to protections for all medical cannabis patients. USA Today reports on how Ms. Cease “has been denied federally subsidized housing because she admitted on her application to using a portion of her Social Security payments to pay for cannabis”:

On Feb. 13, a panel of three Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judges met at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and heard an appeal by Harrisburg-based attorneys on behalf of Mary. She sat in the room and watched.

“I’m doing it because it’s not just for me,” Mary said. “It’s for thousands of other people facing the same problem. I’m setting the precedent.”

Her lawyers argue that under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act discrimination for using the medicine is prohibited, and the only class of people prohibited from residing in federally subsidized housing is sex offenders.

It’s a shame that any patient must feel that they have to hide their medicinal use of cannabis. It is a tragedy for patients battling severe and debilitating medical conditions to face losing their housing over a safe and effective medicine recommended by their doctor. Hopefully, Mary Cease wins her case and help not only herself, but medical patients across her state and the nation. Her case, win or lose, is definitely another step in our fight for freedom as the cannabis community continues to work step by step for true freedom and equality.

Florida Senate Bill Attempts to Cap Medical Cannabis THC Percentage

Yesterday I blogged about a bill introduced in Arizona that would cap the THC of medical cannabis at 2%, warning that such a move would likely spread to other states. Well, today it’s being reported that a Florida Senate bill will cap medical cannabis at 10% for patients under 21 if passed by the Sunshine State’s legislature and signed by Governor Ron DeSantis. Not as ridiculous as the proposed 2% limit introduced in Arizona, the 10% limit is still an unnecessary barrier placed between patients and their physicians, as advocates told the Miami Herald:

Barry Gordon, a Venice-based medical marijuana doctor, said the amendment targets the “most vulnerable” population, and that physicians will find the concept to be “absurd.” Gordon treats about 30 pediatric patients, and says they all have varying needs when it comes to THC levels. But that is a decision a doctor makes with a patient or parent, and Tallahassee need not be involved, he said.

“Every doctor that practices medical cannabis responsibly discusses brain development with the parent,” said Gordon, who operates the largest cannabis clinic in the state “This gets in the way of the doctor-patient relationship.”

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John Morgan, an Orlando personal injury attorney who bankrolled the constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in 2016, alleged the cap is “an attempt to help the pharmaceutical industry.”

“Are they banning Oxycontin levels to people to 21 and under? Are they banning Percocet or Xanax?” he said. “The opioid epidemic was created on the backs of our children.”

Further illustrating how these THC caps are a nationwide threat to the cannabis community the Herald reported on attempts to limit THC in Colorado, Alaska, and Washington State. Everyone concerned about patients rights needs to spread the word and urge friends and family in Florida to contact their legislators to oppose these harmful and unnecessary THC limits.

A 2% THC Cap on Medical Cannabis Introduced in Arizona

It’s a shame that the rights of medical cannabis patients are still coming under attack, even years after states have successfully implemented medical programs that have helped save and improve lives while benefiting state coffers. These harmful attacks must be monitored and fought by all members of the cannabis community for the sake of the patients impacts and to prevent these assaults on patients’ rights from being enacted in more states. Very alarmingly, Arizona lawmakers have introduced a bill that will ridiculously cap THC at 2% on medical cannabis as Ganjapreneur reported:

Arizona lawmakers last week introduced HCR 2045, which aims to cap the THC potency of medical cannabis products at just two percent, AZMarijuana.com reports; the bill is co-sponsored by 15 lawmakers.

Specifically, the proposal would revise the bill to read as follows:

“A registered nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary may not dispense to a qualifying patient or a designated caregiver medical marijuana with a tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of more than two percent.” — Excerpt from HCR 2045

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If the changes are passed, Arizona‘s more than 200,000 registered medical cannabis patients would be either shoehorned into either using low-potency medicine or buying from out-of-state dispensaries or on the unregulated marketplace. Voter-approved initiatives in Arizona, however — like the one that established the state’s medical cannabis program — are difficult for lawmakers to change.

Please spread the word about how harmful such a change would be for patients as they need access to higher THC limits for a variety of reasons, including reducing their severe pain. While 2% THC cannabis and products may be fine for some patients, a vast majority of patients need higher limits. While Reefer Madness prohibitionists often proclaim that “today’s” cannabis contains too much THC, Marinol, federally legal synthetic THC available by prescription, is 100% THC. If you know folks in Arizona, urge them to contact their legislators.

Medical Cannabis Worker Protection Bill Introduced in Hawaii

Last week news broke that a bill to protect the employment rights of medical cannabis patients was introduced in California, and a similar bill has been proposed in Hawaii. As we’ve seen with political elections of all types, winning begets winning, and advancements in one state will influence the actions of other states.

While it is great that we are ending criminal punishments for both adult-use and medical cannabis patients across the nation, there are still many ways that the cannabis community remains treated as second-class citizens, and employment rights are certainly one of the issues that still need to be addressed. The Boston Globe reported on the Hawaiian medical employment protection bill:

“Medical cannabis patients face significant stigma due to longstanding misperceptions regarding cannabis and its uses, fueled by a longstanding, costly ‘war on drugs’ that is disproportionately waged against those impacted by social detriments of health,” officials with the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii said in a written testimony.

The legislation specifies that employers would be allowed to use a fit-for-duty test as a tool for medical cannabis users in potentially dangerous jobs.

It excludes law enforcement and corrections officers, firefighters, water safety officers, emergency medical workers, and any health care worker who might administer drugs to patients. Also excluded would be any employees who work with children, seniors or other vulnerable populations, employees who operate heavy equipment, and most truck employees or drivers.

It’s great to see state after state considering to pass  common sense legislation to prevent workplace discrimination of medical cannabis patients. It is a shame that people are losing job opportunities or even denying themselves a safe and effective medicine because they need to make a living. Step by step, let’s keep moving towards true equality for the cannabis community.

Featured photo credit: Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance

Medical Cannabis Worker Protection Bill Filed in California

The cannabis community has come a long way in recent years, especially when it comes to passing medical patient protections and reducing criminal penalties. We’ve also implemented sales programs that have created thousands of jobs and generated millions upon millions of new revenue dollars.

There is still a lot of work left to accomplish, one being the need to protect cannabis users from discrimination for utilizing cannabis on their own free time, in ways that doesn’t disrupt their job performance in any way. A California legislator has taken the first step towards protecting worker rights for the cannabis community by introducing a bill that prohibits workplace discrimination of medical cannabis patients, as the Los Angeles Times reports:

Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) is taking a first step at addressing the issue. He introduced legislation Friday that would require employers in both the public and private sectors to accommodate workers and job applicants who use marijuana for medical purposes, which was legalized in California in 1996.

“To be discriminated against by your employer because of the type of medicine you use is both inhumane and wrong,” Bonta said. “Medical cannabis, as recommended by a doctor, should be given a similar reasonable accommodation as all prescription drugs.”

Bonta’s bill would not apply to “safety-sensitive” workers required by federal law to be drug free, including airline pilots, police officers and truck drivers, nor would it cover employers with federal contractors who are required to maintain drug-free workplaces.

According to the LA Times, Bonta pointed out that 16 other states, including Arizona, New York and Illinois, have already adopted worker protections similar to his proposal. After passing protections for medical cannabis patients, legal states, including my home state of Oregon, need to implement policies protecting all workers from losing their jobs over cannabis, when utilizing the substance doesn’t hinder their workplace performance whatsoever. Step by step, let’s keep improving our states’ laws and policies, until we are all truly equal and free.

Featured Photo Credit: Darrin Harris Frisby/Drug Policy Alliance

Just Say NO to Trump’s Budget Plan to Cut Medical Cannabis Patient Protections

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal sent shockwaves through the cannabis community yesterday as his administration’s plan would eliminate protections for medical cannabis patients. Under current federal policy, the William Barr’s Department of Justice is prohibited from using any funds from prosecuting, arresting, and jailing medical cannabis patients and their providers who are following their state’s laws.

This is a surprising move by the Trump Administration as he is going back on a campaign promise and protecting state medical cannabis patients and programs has been a largely bipartisan endeavor over the last few year, thanks to the supermajority support medical use enjoys among Americans. Rarely do politicians want to go against the wish of 85% of voters.

As Marijuana Moment reported, this isn’t the first time that Trump has called for an end to the policy and thankfully, Congress has ignored previous attempts to gut the protections, following the will of the people:

President Trump proposed ending an existing policy that protects state medical marijuana programs from Justice Department interference as part of his fiscal year 2021 budget plan released on Monday.

The rider, which has been renewed in appropriations legislation every year since 2014, stipulates the the Justice Department can’t use its funds to prevent states or territories “from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

This isn’t the first time that an administration has requested that the rider be stricken. Trump’s last two budgets omitted the medical cannabis protections language, and President Obama similarly asked for the policy to be removed. In all cases, Congress has ignored those requests and renewed the protections in spending bills.

While there is a great chance that Congress won’t listen to Donald Trump on his proposal to end federal protections for state-legal medical cannabis patients, his administration’s budget plan is a reminder that we must remain vigilant. The gains that we have made can be taken away at any time. It is rather remarkable that anyone in government would have the notion to authorize the arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment of medical patients legally using cannabis under their state’s law.

The fact that this cruel and ill-advised policy would make its way into the 2020 budget plan of the President of the United States demonstrates how there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve true equality for the cannabis community. The good news is that the people, and the truth are on our side, so we just have to keep working hard to support the right public officials and spread the truth about cannabis.

Featured Photo Credit: Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance

 

We Need a Medical Cannabis Patients Bill of Rights

It is easy to see that our nation is moving towards a more sane cannabis policy, but it is still moving too slowly for millions of people. Yes, cannabis is legal for all adults in several states and a majority now allow medical, these laws primarily only protect law-abiding citizens from criminal punishment. Too many folks are still experiencing discrimination in the workplace or face the possibility of losing custody of the children because laws ending criminal penalties aren’t fully protecting those that utilize cannabis. Most importantly, we need to protect patients that use cannabis medicinally.

A medical cannabis patients bill of rights has been filed in Florida, and every state needs to adopt similar legislation, albeit we need even more protections. The Orlando Weekly reports:

The purpose of the legislation is to protect employees and job applicants from punishment for using medical marijuana, unless their job includes safety-sensitive job duties.

“We must do our part to ensure that their use of safe and effective medicine will not impede their right to work,” Berman stated in a press release regarding the Medical Marijuana Employee Protection Act.

The measures would require the employer to provide written notice within five days of a positive test result to give employees and job applicants a chance to explain their results. According to Berman, employers would still be able to enforce a zero-tolerance, drug-free workplace, as the legislation allows for termination of employees whose performance and safety are affected by the drug.

In addition to workplace issues, medical cannabis patients need protections for housing, child custody, and medical decisions. We have made great strides in ending the persecution, prosecution, and stigmatization of the cannabis community recently, but we still have a lot of work to do as fighting for liberty and equality doesn’t stop when states legalize the use of cannabis.

Feature photo credit: Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance

South Dakota to Vote on Cannabis Legalization This Year

Since 1996, presidential election years have been big years for cannabis law reform measures on the ballot and 2020 is shaping up to be another monumental one for the cannabis community. A somewhat unlikely state may just make the leap to full legalization as advocates in South Dakota have put in the hard work of gathering signatures to qualify an amendment for the November ballot. Each state that passes a medical or recreational measure brings us one step closer to ending prohibition federally, and bonus points go to activists that have success in conservative locales like the Mount Rushmore State. Marijuana Moment reported:

The proposed constitutional amendment, which was submitted by a former federal prosecutor in September, would allow adults 21 and older to possess and distribute up to one ounce of marijuana. Individuals would also be allowed to cultivate up to three cannabis plants.

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Under the broader recreational legalization proposal, the South Dakota Department of Revenue would be responsible for issuing licenses for manufacturers, testing facilities and retailers. And sales on cannabis products would be taxed at 15 percent, with revenue earmarked to cover the program’s implementation, public education and the state general fund.

Additionally, the measure requires the legislature to pass bills providing access to medical cannabis for patients and allowing for the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022. If the separate medical marijuana legalization initiative is approved, however, that specific provision wouldn’t be necessary.

Gathering thousands of signatures is no easy task, especially during the winter, so my gratitude goes out to everyone that braves the elements to help legalize freedom, jobs, and revenue around our great nation, especially in states that aren’t your typical hotbed of support. However, the times are a-changin’ with medical provisions passing in places like Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Utah as these victories give me hope that sensible cannabis policies will soon be the law of the land in red states like South Dakota and Idaho. State by state, freedom is on the march, bringing the cannabis community closer and closer to equality from coast to coast.