Delaware House panel approves marijuana legalization bill

DOVER, Del. – (AP) – A bill legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Delaware has cleared its first legislative hurdle.

The legislation, which was released Wednesday by a House committee and now goes to the full House for a vote, regulates and taxes marijuana in the same manner as alcohol.

The bill doesn’t allow people to grow their own marijuana but allows adults over age 21 to legally possess less than an ounce of marijuana for personal use.

The legislation would create a commission to regulate, license and tax the marijuana industry, allowing licenses for up to 40 retail stores.

Consumers would pay an excise tax of $50 an ounce, while businesses would pay an application fee of $5,000 and a $10,000 licensing fee every two years.

Congress Hands A Mixed Bag to Marijuana Movement

The year-end spending bill gives momentum to the marijuana movement, plus a painful setback

For the marijuana legalization movement, 2014 ends the way it began: with legal changes that showcase the movement’s momentum alongside its problems.

Tucked into the 1,603-page year-end spending bill Congress released Tuesday night were a pair of provisions that affect proponents of cannabis reform. Together they form a metaphor for the politics of legal cannabis—an issue that made major bipartisan strides this year, but whose progress is hampered by a tangle of local, state and federal statutes that have sown confusion and produced contradictory justice.

First the good news for reformers: the proposed budget would prohibit law enforcement officials from using federal funds to prosecute patients or legal dispensaries in the 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, that passed some form of medical-marijuana legalization. The provision was crafted by a bipartisan group of representatives and passed the Republican-controlled House in May for the first time in seven tries. If passed into law, it would mark a milestone for the movement, restricting raids against dispensaries and inoculating patients from being punished for an activity that is legal where they live but in violation of federal law.

“The enactment of this legislation will mark the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana, and has instead taken an approach to respect the many states that have permitted the use of medical marijuana to some degree,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said in a statement to TIME. The California Republican’s work on the issue reflects the strange coalition that has sprung up to support cannabis reform as the GOP’s libertarian wing gains steam and voters’ views evolve.

At the same time, the House chose to overrule Washington, D.C., on the issue. Last month voters in the District chose to liberalize its marijuana laws, passing an initiative that legalized the possession, consumption and cultivation of recreational marijuana. The move, which was supported by about 70% of the capital’s voters, paved the way for D.C. to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington State by establishing a tax-and-regulatory structure for cannabis sales in 2015.

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New Jersey Lets 4th Dispensary Grow Medical Marijuana

Jersey officials have given a fourth dispensary permission to start growing medical marijuana, so it could start offering cannabis to patients in the spring of 2015.

The Health Department issued the permit to Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center in Cranbury Township on Friday.

New Jersey has had a law allowing medical marijuana for nearly five years, but drafting state regulations and opening dispensaries has been a slow process. The first one opened two years ago and since then two others have joined.

New Jersey picked six nonprofit groups to cultivate and sell marijuana.

About 3,400 patients are registered with the program and 364 physicians across the state are enrolled so they can recommend marijuana to patients.

Atlantic City Casino To Offer Pot-growing Program

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (CBS) – A California-based “marijuana school” is hosting a four-day seminar on growing your own pot in Atlantic City this August.

Oaksterdam University is offering the program – with potential for certification – at Bally’s casino from Aug. 23-26.

But sorry, aspiring cannabis cultivators – there won’t be any actual weed plants at this seminar due to New Jersey laws.

“Specialized horticultural training dovetails well with our Classic program, as it is important for aspiring budtenders, cannabis chefs, and collective members to have a well rounded education,” the university says. “Oaksterdam University Atlantic City is the same as the OU Horticulture Seminar in Oakland without hands-on labs or live plants due to federal intervention.”

Students at the event will learn everything from the history of marijuana to how to grow the plants and keep them free from pests.

Anyone interested in attending the weed workshop can register on Oaksterdam University’s website.

Lawmaker proposes medical marijuana program overhaul despite Christie’s criticism

TRENTON — Declaring New Jersey’s medical marijuana program “broken,” a Union County assemblywoman has introduced legislation that scraps many of its most rigid provisions and allows people to grow their own supply.

The measure would also protect some patients from losing their jobs, and expand the list of qualifying diseases.

State Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Union), the lead sponsor, said she is undeterred by Gov. Chris Christie’s recent remarks about there being little demand for the program except for people who want to legalize marijuana for recreational use. In a recent radio appearance, he said:

“This program and all these other programs, in my mind, are a front for legalization. Unless you have a strong governor and a strong administration that says, ‘Oh, medical marijuana? Absolutely. We are going to make it a medically based program.’ No demand there — or very little.”

Stender said her bill responds to patients who claim the program has failed them, particularly parents with severely ill children, and people whose diseases are not recognized by the state. The program was serving 2,342 patients as of mid-June.

“The program is broken — it does not function,” Stender said. “Despite all of (Christie’s) proclamations that this is a back door to legalization, the emphasis (of the bill) is finding a pathway to fit the needs of very sick people.”

The most dramatic change would allow eligible patients to grow their own cannabis. Patients and their advocates have complained the available cannabis is too expensive. Stender’s bill also would allow patients to acquire marijuana through a designated grower.

The bill (A3525), also sponsored by Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex), expands the list of qualifying conditions to include Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, post traumatic stress disorder, Lyme disease, anorexia, hepatitis, the rare genetic disorder known as nail patella, and “any other condition if severe and chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting” or wasting syndrome that accompanies a disease or its treatment.

The bill also takes another stab at reducing the number of physicians required to recommend a child to the program.

Other provisions of the bill include:

• Letting an unlimited number of dispensaries operate under state supervision.

• Eliminating sales tax.

• Protecting patients from losing their jobs because they test positive for marijuana, “unless the employers establishes by clear and convincing evidence the use of medical marijuana has had a detrimental impact on the individual’s performance.”

• Requiring dispensaries or a lab to test the marijuana’s potency and chemical composition.

Brian Wilson, a Scotch Plains resident until he and his family moved over the winter to Colorado where the program offers more effective relief from their daughter’s illness, said he was encouraged to see the bill responds to what families have requested.

New Jersey MMJ Program *update* (NJ.Com)

After predictions that New Jersey’s medical marijuana program could serve tens of thousands of patients with severe and painful illnesses, only 2,342 have signed up — a participation rate so small some worry the very future of the program could be at stake.

Lawmakers, some dispensary operators and patients blame the sluggish enrollment on the program’s rigid rules, exorbitant costs for patients and growers, and Gov. Chris Christie’s contention that he does not need to do anything more to enhance participation.

And they say one major roadblock is that so few New Jersey doctors are willing to recommend patients for medical marijuana.

“We have a dysfunctional program, and I think it’s going to take some sort of ‘pot summit’ bringing together patients, doctors and legislators to really make this a success,” said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), one of the lead sponsors of the law.

“We are hearing more and more anecdotal evidence that dispensaries are not sustaining themselves, the quality (of the marijuana) is not always there, and it’s difficult for doctors and patients to get into the program,” Gusciora said.

The lawmaker said while he has “every faith” in state Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd, “there is so much reticence on the administration’s part, I don’t know how you break that logjam. All they have to do is open their eyes.”

Enrollment in the program has more than doubled in the last year as two of the state’s three medical marijuana dispensaries opened their doors. But it’s nowhere near the 5,000 to 30,000 medical marijuana patients advocates anticipated when the law was passed. Dispensary owners looked at disease statistics in New Jersey and expected at least 50,000 patients. The state’s first dispensary opened in December 2012.

“We thought we would have 10,000 patients by now,” said Yale Galanter, attorney and spokesman for Garden State Dispensary in Woodbridge, which has served 1,700 since opening six months ago.

The Compassionate Care Foundation center in Egg Harbor Township, which opened with great fanfare in October after securing a state-backed loan, says it needs 2,000 patients to break even and has served 600. The owners report bagfuls of cannabis are going to waste, and expansion plans are on hold.

Chief operating officer Bill Thomas quit last week, saying he could no longer work without getting paid.

Doctors are ‘key’
“We know the key to this program being viable is getting doctors involved,” he said.

Patients must be referred by a doctor in order to participate. Just 296 of New Jersey’s 21,000 licensed physicians have signed up.

Many doctors don’t want their name on the state’s website, according to Gusciora, and dispensary officials from Woodbridge and Egg Harbor Township. They said doctors who are in the program report that they get calls from people diagnosed with illnesses they don’t treat, as well as others who don’t qualify for the program. As that word spreads, other doctors are wary about joining the program, the officials say.

And given the stigma surrounding marijuana, which is still illegal under federal law, some doctors fear they will lose patients or alienate their practice partners.

“They are not saying (their names) should be a secret,” said David Knowlton, a founder and board member of Compassionate Care Foundation. “But having it on the website implies to patients they can walk in and be seen.”

‘Convenient excuse’
Larry Downs, executive director for the Medical Society of New Jersey, said he found the lack of doctor involvement a “convenient excuse” for the program’s struggles.

“If dispensary owners have overestimated the market, then that is not the concern of the medical field,” Downs said.

“If doctors believe it is a legitimate therapy, being published on a website is not going to stop them,” he added. “A lot of doctors do not believe it is a good therapy and that it does not meet standards of efficacy and safety.”

The slow enrollment rate and struggling dispensaries have had a ripple effect on some patients.

Betty Rand, an 89-year-old homebound stroke patient from Millburn, says medical marijuana eases her pain and muscle spasms, but it would be far easier if she could get it in the form of a lozenge. Smoking makes her cough and adds to her suffering from the host of other illnesses she’s battling.

Dispensaries, however, don’t offer lozenges or any edible product yet. The health department is reviewing manufacturing plans from the Woodbridge dispensary. With lagging enrollment, Egg Harbor officials have said they can’t afford the expense of developing a new product.

Rand describes the program as “a job they’ve half-done and are not finishing right, They are not making an effort, and as long as Christie is there, he is not going to do it.”

Knowlton, a former deputy health commissioner, says he’s far from giving up on the program. He is talking with O’Dowd and program director John O’Brien about changes that could make it more accessible, such as allowing hospice centers and nursing homes to act as couriers for registered patients in their care. People who cannot obtain their own marijuana may identify a caregiver to retrieve it for them, but a caregiver can only serve one patient.

“I recognize that with a program that has this much scrutiny, the state has to move slowly,” Knowlton said. “I think the department is trying to be helpful but cautious. They have to think ‘How could this go bad?’ I am confident this is going to work out. This is just a trying time.”

Full article at NJ.Com 👍

Missouri lawmakers working to legalize cannabis extract

JEFFERSON CITY — Although Missouri lawmakers are not clamoring to legalize marijuana, key Republican lawmakers appear ready to follow a few states in allowing use of a cannabis extract for people whose epilepsy isn’t relieved by other treatments.

Legislation is advancing in the Missouri House, where a committee could hold a public hearing and vote this week. Recently filed legislation is backed by the Republican House speaker, majority leader and Democratic leaders. It also is supported by a Republican senator whose son has epilepsy. Sponsoring Rep. Caleb Jones said lawmakers are moving quickly.

“People realize that people’s lives are at stake,” said Jones, R-Columbia.

About a dozen states have considered legislation seeking to allow use of cannabidiol oil for patients who have seizures. Cannabidiol, also called CBD, is a compound in cannabis but doesn’t cause users to feel high. During the past week, the South Carolina House approved a bill and Wisconsin lawmakers sent a measure to Gov. Scott Walker. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed legislation allowing the University of Alabama at Birmingham to study the marijuana extract while giving participants legal protection from state criminal charges.

There has been particular attention on oil from the marijuana strain Charlotte’s Web bred for an epileptic patient in Colorado. It is high in CBD and has little or no psychoactive effects. There is a waiting list, and patients must live in Colorado where marijuana is legal.

The Marijuana Policy Project said CBD oil is relatively new. The Washington-based advocacy group doesn’t oppose the state efforts but says there are other health problems for which cannabis also can help.

“It’s an easy sort of rallying point, but the problem is that it leaves behind the vast majority of patients who would otherwise benefit from medical marijuana,” said Chris Lindsey, legislative analyst for the group.

Missouri’s legislation would allow use of “hemp extract” with no more than 0.3 percen tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and at least 5 percent CBD. Patients or their parents would need a registration card, and it only could be used for epilepsy that a neurologist has determined isn’t responding to at least three treatment options. The state Agriculture Department could grow plants, and universities could be certified to cultivate them for research.

“This is one to me that is kind of a no-brainer,” said Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County. “You can’t get high on it. It can help some families.”

Schmitt’s 9-year-old son, Stephen, has intractable epilepsy and daily seizures. Infantile spasms started when Stephen was about 9 months old and his first big seizure came when he was a little older than 1. Medications have helped but not stopped them.

Schmitt said he is uncertain whether CBD oil is an option but that families should have access if it can provide relief to people going through dozens or hundreds of seizures daily.

One Missouri family looking for relief for a sick child is heading to Colorado to find it.

June Jessee turns 2 years old later this month. Her parents, Matt and Genny Jessee, said they have tried everything they can legally to stop seizures that they estimate occur at least 20 times daily. June has taken 10 seizure medications, adopted a special diet, tried alternative therapies like chiropractic care and seen a homeopathic doctor. She also has other health problems, but it is unknown how they are connected.

Doctors suggested retrying medicine that already failed to stop the seizures, and the family instead is moving. Matt Jessee is a lobbyist at Bryan Cave in St. Louis.

Genny Jessee said CBD oil isn’t guaranteed to work but likened it to trying other medications or treatments. She said it doesn’t make sense families go through so many hoops for something that could prove lifesaving.

Missouri’s bill sponsor got to know Matt Jessee when they both worked on President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign and stood next to him at Matt’s wedding.

Even if Missouri lawmakers legalize CBD oil quickly, it will not stop the Jessee family from going to Colorado. But they hope it could allow them to return to Missouri.

Read more here