Election Day was an exciting night for citizens hoping for legal access to medical cannabis. Both Missouri and Utah joined the list of states with medical cannabis programs, bringing the total of states with medical programs to 33, plus Washington, D.C.
Nine states now have recreational access: Michigan was among the states to approve recreational cannabis as part of the midterm elections, and while a recreational proposal in North Dakota did not pass, medical cannabis remains legal there. Finally, Wisconsin voters in 16 counties approved several advisory measures relating to cannabis, including measures to legalize medical cannabis, but the legislature must decide whether to act.
Policymakers across both aisles have had mixed viewpoints when it comes to cultivating cannabis, not in the literal sense, but as it relates to bills that would permit individuals to access medical cannabis. Several states, however, are expanding or considering expanding their medical cannabis programs, including Illinois, New York, and New Jersey. In addition, some federal institutions have taken steps to improve access: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Congress.
California has long been a harbinger of medical cannabis access. In 1996, it approved medical cannabis for patients with a physician’s recommendation, and in 2016, it legalized marijuana for all residents. Continuing to lead the way on this therapeutic treatment option, lawmakers are considering Assembly Bill 1996, which would establish a research program on the medical use of cannabis. It would be the first of its kind in the country.
By Jerry S. Goldman and Ethan W. Middlebrooks
As a result of the conflicting laws and policies of the federal government and the various states, users of medical cannabis are faced with a host of practical challenges.
The Federal Controlled Substances Act places cannabis (including CBD, a constituent chemical) in Schedule I, the most tightly restricted category, with substantial criminal penalties for its sale and distribution and adverse implications for banking, taxation, intellectual property, and litigation. State law is subject to the primacy of federal law. For most of the 20th century, states mirrored the federal policy. Over the past two decades, however, a large majority of states have permitted the regulated distribution and possession of cannabis for medical and/or adult-use purposes. Some states permit such uses only for CBD; 21 other states (along with D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico) have comprehensive medical cannabis programs; and 8 states have authorized adult-use cannabis programs.
On May 23, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) awarded U.S. Pain with its inaugural “End Pain, Not Lives” Champion of the Year, a new award that recognizes the organization that best supports ASA’s effort to make it easier for people with pain, chronic pain, and opioid use disorder to utilize medical cannabis in their treatment plans. The award was presented at the Unity Awards Dinner, as part of ASA’s National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference in Washington, D.C.
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Middletown, Conn. (May 4, 2018)—With the release of its eighth edition of the INvisible Project this month, U.S. Pain Foundation is tackling the stigma of medical cannabis. The issue features the raw but inspiring stories and photos of 10 individuals using cannabis to help manage their chronic health issues.
With the release of its eighth edition of the INvisible Project on April 15, U.S. Pain is tackling the stigma of medical cannabis. The issue features the raw but often inspiring stories and photos of 10 individuals using cannabis to help manage their chronic health issues.
The INvisible Project was first published in 2010 as a way to create more awareness about the trials and triumphs of people living with pain. Last year, an estimated 65,000 copies were distributed. Patients’ stories are also featured on displays, which are then exhibited at conferences and events across the country.
Patient advocates have been heartened to see more states making progress in allowing access to medical cannabis for chronic conditions like pain. In New Jersey, chronic pain was recently added to the list of qualifying conditions for chronic pain. Meanwhile, in West Virginia, passed a bill to increase the number of licenses available for growers and dispensaries. (Unfortunately, the bill adds restrictions on physicians, which may discourage them from certifying patients.) In Hawaii, lawmakers are looking to establish a medical cannabis insurance reimbursement working group to address the possibility of insurance coverage for medical cannabis.
U.S. Pain is offering three online letter-writing campaigns to urge legislators improve access to medical cannabis. Check below to see if your state is among those that don’t allow full access to medical cannabis for people with pain. Please note you may need to use your nine-digit zip code, which you can look up here.
States: AL, GA, IN, IA, KY, MS, MO, NC, OK, TN, SC, TX, UT, VA, WI and WY
Despite recent roadblocks, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ efforts to restrict recreational marijuana use and the Veteran Administration’s refusal to study cannabis’s therapeutic benefit, legislation at the state and federal level is moving forward to allow or expand access to medical marijuana for those who need it.
“Americans should be encouraged by the progress being made,” explains Shaina Smith, director of state advocacy and alliance development for U.S. Pain Foundation. “Fortunately, Attorney General Sessions has only cracked down on recreational marijuana. Although there is some concern he might target medical cannabis, so far, we’re seeing a lot of positive action on medical marijuana bills in numerous states and at the federal level. But we need our advocates and ambassadors to step up and support the legislation being proposed.”