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Medical Marijuana Update

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #778)

Medical marijuana bills were laid to rest in two states this week, changes in the medical marijuana law went into effect in another, and Massachusetts now appears set to open dispensaries by year's end. There's more news, too. Let's get to it:


Last Friday, a retired San Diego couple were bound over for trial on marijuana charges even though the presiding judge said he believed they were not selling the medical marijuana they grew. Deborah and Dennis Little were raided by DEA agents after a San Diego Sheriff's Department helicopter spotted their garden. Although the Littles are qualified patients, medical marijuana foe San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis filed criminal charges against them anyway. In binding the Littles over for trial, the judge noted that their medical marijuana recommendations were one month out of date.


On Monday, supporters conceded that medical marijuana legislation was dead for this year. The legislation has been bottled up by hostile or indifferent legislative leaders. "Shame on us as a legislature for not taking the opportunity to hear this bill this year," House bill sponsor Rep. Katie Edwards (D-Plantation) said at a press conference on Monday.


On Monday, the House of Delegates approved a bill extending protections to caretakers. The measure had already passed the state Senate, so it now goes to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), who has not said whether he will sign it. Under a 2011 law, patients are allowed to use medical necessity as an affirmative defense if caught with marijuana. This bill would expand that same protection to their caregivers.


Last Friday, the Department of Public Health filed draft regulations for medical marijuana. Under the proposed rules, dispensaries (or "Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers") could open in the Bay State by the end of this year. Dispensaries would have to grow their own product and would not be able to sell wholesale to other dispensaries. The regulations aim to minimize home grows by various means, including discounted prices for low-income patients, allowing secure home delivery, and encouraging caregivers to pick up product instead of grow it. The regs would also define a 60-day supply of medical marijuana as 10 ounces.


On Monday, changes to the medical marijuana laws passed last year went into effect. The law now defines and requires a "bona fide physician-patient relationship" -- which includes an in-person evaluation -- between a patient and recommending physician. Also, newly issued registry ID cards will be valid for two years instead of only one. A requirement that patients transporting marijuana by vehicle keep it in a case in the trunk took effect in January.

West Virginia

On Monday, a medical marijuana bill died after it failed to get a vote in the House. This marks the third consecutive year that bills filed by Del. Mike Manypenny (D) have been snuffed out in the House. At least this year, Manypenny managed to find some cosponsors, including Republicans. Maybe next year.

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