Resuscitating Medical Marijuana Initiatives

We know the Attorney General-in-waiting Jeff Sessions would like to see an apocalyptic destruction of state efforts to legalize and regulate medical cannabis. Will his reengagement of reefer madness talking points carry the day with budding medical marijuana programs across the United States?

The Big Apple: New York is loosening restrictions in its nearly year-old medical marijuana program but there is no sign the state is in any hurry to join eight other states in embracing full legalization. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo remains a vocal skeptic of recreational use. New York’s medical marijuana law has some of the strictest rules among the more than 20 states that allow medical cannabis.

For example, pot products cannot be dispensed in smokeable form and physicians must complete a training course to approve the drug for patients. So far, 750 physicians have signed up to participate, and less than 11,000 patients have been certified, a number that dispensary operators have complained has made it hard to turn a profit.

In an effort to boost patient access, officials have announced that nurse practitioners and physician assistants will soon be allowed to certify patients for the drug. The state is considering authorizing home deliveries. State Health Department officials also plan to add chronic pain to a list of 10 qualifying conditions that also include cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.

New York is a strange bedfellow in the fight to knock down the War on Marijuana: Forward-thinking New Yorkers should be at the forefront of change, not the tail end.

The Great Lake State: The more aware we are of cannabis – both the good and the bad – the more we can do to combat cannabis confusion and leave people with an open mind.

On Sunday, Dec. 4 organizers of the Capital Conference in downtown Lansing said 300-plus profit-minded Michiganders were registered to learn how they might someday turn the drug into dollars. In mere weeks, three new laws will go into effect in Michigan to regulate medical marijuana. The conference served as an educational opportunity for aspiring medical marijuana entrepreneurs.

The Michigan Marihuana Act of 2008 allows state-licensed patients to get medical marijuana from a qualified caregiver. But the definition of a caregiver remains under interpretation. According to current law, a caregiver can grow up to 72 plants in their home because they are allowed to care for up to five patients. A patient can also grow up to 12 plans in their home.

The Grand Canyon State: Lawsuits have a way of shaking up the status quo. In Arizona, the attorney for Yolanda Daniels and Lisa Becker points out that the Department of Health Services collected $2.6 million more in fees last year from patients, caregivers, and dispensaries than it actually took to run the medical marijuana program. The refusal to reduce the fees could be an example of the state’s hostility to the voter-approved marijuana program. Claiming the state is hoarding funds, Daniels and Becker, two medical marijuana users, want a judge to reduce the annual charge for the registration cards that patients in the program are legally required to obtain.

The health department charges patients $150 a year for the identification card they need to legally buy the drug and to escape prosecution if they are found in possession. Caregivers who tend to patients must pay $200 a year. Do the fees run afoul of the 2010 medical marijuana law approved by Arizona voters, which says the fees shall only be “sufficient to implement and administer” the program? Is the state deliberately and illegally taking in excess funds instead of refunding it to patients or using it in furtherance of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, such as to help patients?

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