Seventeen (and D.C.) and Counting

Jun18

Written by:
6/18/2012 8:39 PM RssIcon

Since 1996, 17 states and the District of Columbia have passed some form of medical marijuana legislation that extends legal protections to patients using marijuana for medical purposes. These include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Legislation passed in Maryland recognizes the medical benefits of marijuana, but mandates only that patients can claim an “affirmative defense” for its use, meaning they must prove their need for it to avoid fines or imprisonment.

Medical marijuana bills were introduced in 19 states in 2012, but either did not pass or were not voted on due to failure to be approved in committees in 10 of them. In New Hampshire, both houses of the legislature have passed a bill. but the governor is threatening to veto it, with legislators now working to gain enough support to overturn the veto if it comes.

Bills have been introduced in the legislatures in Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania and are still under consideration in at least some of those states which have 2-year legislative sessions.

Bills failed in Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin. In Maryland, a bill to strengthen the legal protections extended to patients using cannabis for medical purposes failed in committees.

A largely symbolic bill was introduced in Kentucky and has not moved out of committee due to the use of the word “prescribe”, which can be used only with FDA-approved medications, not medical cannabis.

In Massachusetts, a voter initiative to allow the use of medical marijuana will be on the ballot in November, and a similar initiative in Arkansas is gathering momentum. Washington state and Colorado voters will have an opportunity to approve measures allowing adults over 21 to possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes outside the medical framework, taxing and regulating it like alcohol.

When looking at individual states, it seems that the uphill effort to pass medical marijuana legislation is getting increasingly difficult, but taking a step back and considering the big picture provides a different perspective.

At least five states still have bills under active consideration, or bills that could potentially come to votes in the legislatures. And although bills failed in 10 states in 2012, they were at least introduced and considered, and will in all likelihood be introduced again next year.

The recent successful passage of medical marijuana legislation in Connecticut provides important lessons in how to conduct a campaign to pass a medical marijuana bill. Connecticut first passed a medical marijuana bill in 2007, but it was vetoed by the governor, and failed to pass for another 4 years. But supporters of the bill conducted a well-organized campaign to demonstrate to legislators the positive personal impact medical cannabis had on people in the state. Many patients met with their elected representatives in one-on-one conversations. Others presented objective medical research data that support the medical benefits of cannabis. And the pervasive misstatements about purported dangers of marijuana were countered one argument at a time.

As New Hampshire state Senator Jim Forsythe (R-Strafford), that bill’s prime sponsor recently said, “Most senators [in New Hampshire] now agree we have a moral obligation to protect seriously ill patients from being arrested in our state” while allowing those same patients to use treatments that improve the quality of their lives, sometimes dramatically. Approaching legislators in all 15 states that considered medical cannabis bills in 2012 or continue to debate them with serious, objective, personal experiences while citing the medical research that supports the use of cannabis as a treatment option will ultimately bring a great many other legislators to understand the benefits for their constituents just as Senator Forsythe and many others have.

It’s time to get busy. Emulate successful campaigns such as in Connecticut, and never despair. Millions of our fellow citizens who could benefit from medical cannabis are depending on us.
Since 1996, 17 states and the District of Columbia have passed some form of medical marijuana legislation that extends legal protections to patients using marijuana for medical purposes. These include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Legislation passed in Maryland recognizes the medical benefits of marijuana, but mandates only that patients can claim an “affirmative defense” for its use, meaning they must prove their need for it to avoid fines or imprisonment.

Medical marijuana bills were introduced in 19 states in 2012, but either did not pass or were not voted on due to failure to be approved in committees in 10 of them. In New Hampshire, both houses of the legislature have passed a bill. but the governor is threatening to veto it, with legislators now working to gain enough support to overturn the veto if it comes.

Bills have been introduced in the legislatures in Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania and are still under consideration in at least some of those states which have 2-year legislative sessions.

Bills failed in Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin. In Maryland, a bill to strengthen the legal protections extended to patients using cannabis for medical purposes failed in committees.

A largely symbolic bill was introduced in Kentucky and has not moved out of committee due to the use of the word “prescribe”, which can be used only with FDA-approved medications, not medical cannabis.

In Massachusetts, a voter initiative to allow the use of medical marijuana will be on the ballot in November, and a similar initiative in Arkansas is gathering momentum. Washington state and Colorado voters will have an opportunity to approve measures allowing adults over 21 to possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes outside the medical framework, taxing and regulating it like alcohol.

When looking at individual states, it seems that the uphill effort to pass medical marijuana legislation is getting increasingly difficult, but taking a step back and considering the big picture provides a different perspective.

At least five states still have bills under active consideration, or bills that could potentially come to votes in the legislatures. And although bills failed in 10 states in 2012, they were at least introduced and considered, and will in all likelihood be introduced again next year.

The recent successful passage of medical marijuana legislation in Connecticut provides important lessons in how to conduct a campaign to pass a medical marijuana bill. Connecticut first passed a medical marijuana bill in 2007, but it was vetoed by the governor, and failed to pass for another 4 years. But supporters of the bill conducted a well-organized campaign to demonstrate to legislators the positive personal impact medical cannabis had on people in the state. Many patients met with their elected representatives in one-on-one conversations. Others presented objective medical research data that support the medical benefits of cannabis. And the pervasive misstatements about purported dangers of marijuana were countered one argument at a time.

As New Hampshire state Senator Jim Forsythe (R-Strafford), that bill’s prime sponsor recently said, “Most senators [in New Hampshire] now agree we have a moral obligation to protect seriously ill patients from being arrested in our state” while allowing those same patients to use treatments that improve the quality of their lives, sometimes dramatically. Approaching legislators in all 15 states that considered medical cannabis bills in 2012 or continue to debate them with serious, objective, personal experiences while citing the medical research that supports the use of cannabis as a treatment option will ultimately bring a great many other legislators to understand the benefits for their constituents just as Senator Forsythe and many others have.

It’s time to get busy. Emulate successful campaigns such as in Connecticut, and never despair. Millions of our fellow citizens who could benefit from medical cannabis are depending on us.

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