Proposed MA DPH regulations regarding medical-marijuana patients and caregivers
Posted by MikeCann via MikeCann.net
To: Massachusetts Department of Public Health
From: Andy Gaus
Re: Proposed regulations regarding medical-marijuana patients and caregivers
Thank you for providing this forum to comment on the proposed DPH regulations on medical marijuana.
Two provisions in particular appear to make it virtually impossible for caregivers to provide the marijuana patients need while dispensaries are slowly organizing themselves:
1) Each caregiver must provide marijuana for only one patient.
2) The caregiver is not supposed to receive any compensation whatever from the patient for providing the marijuana.
Put these two provisions together, and very few people can practically step forward and become caregivers.
Bear in mind that growing marijuana indoors requires investing several hundred dollars in equipment to get started, paying high electrical bills in the ensuing months as well as ongoing costs for soil and fertilizer, and putting in hours of very real physical labor. If a patient grows for herself, these costs are repaid by the marijuana harvested and the relief it brings. But if a patient cannot grow for herself, the very considerable costs and burdens of producing the marijuana fall totally on the caregiver, with all compensation prohibited. This isn't just unfair: it has the practical effect of making it virtually impossible to be a caregiver, which means no one can help the person who cannot grow for herself. If you wish to limit the ability of a caregiver to profit from their cottage industry, you could set a maximum number of patients (but not a maximum of one), or a maximum price per ouince, or both. A limit of, say, 20 patients per caregiver and $100 per ounce would keep caregivers and their homes from turning into for-profit dispensaries but would not leave patients with no one to turn to during a long period when cities and towns are enacting moratoriums and potential dispensary operators are clearing numerous legal hurdles.
The provision that a patient must have no more than two total sources of marijuana is also unnecessarily onerous. If all providers are supposed to use a common state database, any user of the database should be able to verify that the same patient isn't filling the same prescription multiple times at different locations. If a further check is needed, patients could be issued something like a ration book.
One senses in all these regulations the underlying assumption that a set of air-tight regulations is both necessary and sufficient to prevent medical marijuana from being diverted to healthy recreational users, and that without such air-tight regulations, large-scale diversion is inevitable, with disastrous social consequences, particularly the increased availability to minors.
Let's be realistic: recreational users, including minors, already have total access to marijuana if they want it. Kids themselves, when surveyed, report that marijuana is easier to get than alcohol. Those who get their dope from dealers needn't fear being rejected as too young, and most of them get it, not from dealers, but from each other, in a vast informal network where everyone is both a user and a distributor. Likewise, almost all Massachusetts adults who wish to consume marijuana recreationally have found or could find a connection: marijuana prices have actually come down in recent years due to market saturation.
As officials responsible for public health, your first priority must be to make sure that patients who need marijuana for relief of painful and debilitating conditions can get it.
Minimizing diversion cannot be the main goal: it will never be effective for its stated purpose and is certain to cause unnecessary stress and pain for patients who need relief now and for the caregivers who would like to provide it .
Holder promises marijuana verdict coming 'soon'
Wait, I thought we already told them, IT'S LEGAL NOW. -UA
Attorney General Eric Holder promised Washington and Colorado state attorneys general on Tuesday that the Justice Department would issue its verdict “soon” on how it plans to treat the states’ recent moves to legalize marijuana.“We’re still in the process of reviewing both of the initiatives that were passed,” said Holder, speaking at the National Association of Attorney General annual conference in Washington, D.C.“You will hear soon. We’re in the last stages of that review and we’re trying to make a determination as to what the policy ramifications are going to be, what our international obligations are — there are a whole variety of things that go into this determination — but the people of [Colorado] and Washington deserve an answer and you will have one soon.”
Holder was responding to Colorado state attorney general John Suthers, who asked the nation’s top law enforcement official when the DOJ would be weighing in on the state laws that have been in effect for nearly two months.
The DOJ is charged with enforcing the federal prohibition on marijuana, and the state laws run counter to the long-existing ban, creating a debate over which law should be enforced and which law is most responsive to the will of the people.
Marijuana has been a centerpiece of the federal government’s “war on drugs,” aimed at cracking down on drug use in the United States. But the growing number of people who support the decriminalization of pot — which is still legally classified nationally in the same category as heroin — has some policymakers in Washington, D.C., rethinking their approach.
On Monday, nearly a dozen House Democrats introduced several bills that would decriminalize marijuana and remove the drug from the list of controlled substances, while requiring the federal government to regulate it and impose penalties on tax-evaders.
Holder has met or talked with both governors and attorneys general from Colorado and Washington during the DOJ’s review process, posing a series of questions to the state leaders, such as how they plan to prevent marijuana produced in the state from being trafficked to other states where the drug is not legal.
Read more: http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/284943-holder-promises-marijuana-verdict-qsoonq#ixzz2M6nqKece
Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook
Doors swing open for advocates of marijuana legalization on Capitol Hill
The lobbyists say lawmakers who wouldn’t give them the time of day are suddenly interested in meeting with them and introducing legislation following the approval of ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington that legalized recreational use of the drug.
“These were folks who wouldn't take a call five years ago and now they are calling us and telling us to get up there with our PAC money and our expertise,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “For those of us who have been at this for the past 20 years, it has been nice to see the warm turn.”
Some pro-legalization groups are increasing their fundraising as lawmakers consider drug legislation. Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), said the group is planning more aggressive fundraising through its political action committee.
“Our hope is to exceed what we have done in any previous cycle,” Fox said.
The group is aiming to get more than $150,000 in contributions to its PAC for the 2014 election cycle — topping its previous record of more than $119,000 in donations for the 2006 campaign, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records.
Further, the PAC is changing its name to the Marijuana Policy Project PAC, dropping a prior reference to medical marijuana. Fox, who also lobbies for the National Cannabis Industry Association, said the name change signals that a broader reform agenda is now on the table.
“The ground has shifted and we now see members of Congress wanting to regulate marijuana like alcohol. The name change reflects that our activity on the federal level is no longer just about medical marijuana,” Fox said.
But strategists looking to reform drug policies are choosing their battles carefully at the state level.
In a Nov. 28, 2012, memo obtained by The Hill, Rob Kampia, MPP’s executive director, said Oregon should wait until 2016 to for a marijuana legalization ballot drive, when another presidential election would boost turnout among young voters.
“Given that an initiative in November 2014 would be almost certain to lose, MPP would contribute no money toward a signature drive, paid staff, or advertising during the 2013-2014 cycle,” Kampia wrote to Oregon activists.
Kampia said MPP is interested in passing an Oregon ballot initiative in 2016 and would contribute $700,000 to the effort.
“There is going to be disagreement at times. That's par for the course. It's like any other issue advocacy group. We will agree on the objectives but we might disagree on how to get there,” said Roy Kaufmann, one of the activists who received the memo and is now MPP’s Oregon representative and agrees with waiting until 2016.
Kaufmann was the campaign strategist for Measure 80 in Oregon, the marijuana legalization ballot effort that failed in 2012.
“We can't tell our funders in good faith that they should fund a 2014 initiative. We are not saying it's impossible to win. We are just saying it's a completely unnecessary risk,” Fox said. "The only thing that can keep Oregon from winning this in 2016 is a loss in 2014."
As the movement for marijuana legalization spreads, competition for fundraising dollars is likely to grow. A number of well-heeled donors have already opened their wallets for the cause.
New Approach Washington, the main group that campaigned for legalization in that state, took in more than $6 million in contributions last election cycle.
The prolific liberal donor Peter Lewis gave more than $2 million to New Approach Washington for their legalization campaign, according to state campaign finance records. Drug Policy Action — the 501(c)(4) affiliate of Drug Policy Alliance — contributed more than $1.6 million. George Soros sits on Drug Policy Alliance’s board of directors and was a major donor to Drug Policy Action in 2012.
Lobbyists say the battle that is brewing over drug laws will be far-reaching and not confined to recreational use of marijuana.
“You going to see reform on federal drug policy in general,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “It's not just about marijuana. It's about racial disparity, over-incarceration and saving money as well.”
Capitol Hill has certainly taken notice.
Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) each introduced separate bills this past week that would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol. The two lawmakers also released a report on how to rethink federal marijuana policy.
On the other side of the Capitol, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, plans to hold a hearing on marijuana policy this Congress.
Drug laws are also getting a second look from the GOP, with Kentucky Republicans rallying behind industrial hemp. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) introduced legislation this past week to exclude hemp from the Controlled Substances Act’s definition of marijuana.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has backed that effort, saying he became convinced that hemp production would be good for his state after long discussions with the libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
Lobbyists don’t expect a marijuana legalization bill will be on President Obama’s desk this Congress, but lawmakers know they will have to reconcile federal policy at some point with the legalization movement sweeping the states.
“I often tell elected officials that if you are going to remain relevant in politics, you are going to have to move towards drug policy reform because that's where the younger voters are,” Piper said.
One Democrat said he’s made a personal appeal to Obama — who has admitted to smoking marijuana as a teenager — for changes to federal policy.
“I raised the issue myself with the president at the Democratic retreat [on Thursday]. … It should change,” Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), noting thousands of people are in jail for marijuana use.
Cohen plans to introduce legislation to create a commission to study states where medical marijuana and marijuana have been legalized. Advocates believe the bill could attract White House support.
“The commission gives the president some maneuvering room by affording him time and his administration acknowledges that public attitudes about this have changed,” St. Pierre said.
Read more: http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/282029-doors-swing-open-for-marijuana-advocates-on-capitol-hill#ixzz2KbPkq1j1
Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook
Washington, Colorado Allow Recreational Use of Marijuana
Washington will allow those at least 21 years old to buy as much as one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana from a licensed retailer. Colorado’s measure allows possession of an ounce, and permits growing as many as six plants in private, secure areas. Oregon voters rejected a similar measure.
“The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said in a statement. “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.”
Support for marijuana’s recreational use built on measures that allow it for medical purposes in one-third of U.S. states. Previous attempts to legalize pot through ballot measures failed in California, Alaska, Oregon, Colorado and Nevada since 1972, according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado said federal law was not affected by the vote.
“The Department of Justice’s enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged,” said Jeff Dorschner in a statement. “We are reviewing the ballot initiative and have no additional comment at this time.”
Washington, Colorado and Oregon were among six states with marijuana on their ballots. In Massachusetts, residents approved a measure to allow medical use, while Arkansas voters rejected such a proposal. Medical-marijuana use is already permitted in 17 states and the District of Columbia. In Montana, a proposal to restrict the use of medical marijuana was leading, 57 percent to 43 percent, with 65 percent of ballots counted, the Associated Press said.
“It’s very monumental,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a Washington-based group that advocates legalization. “No state has ever done this. Technically, marijuana isn’t even legal in Amsterdam.”
The approval of recreational pot goes a step beyond its acceptance in medical use. California was the first state to permit medical-marijuana when voters approved it in 1996. Federal prosecutors cracked down on the medical-marijuana industry in California last year, threatening landlords with jail if they didn’t evict the shops.
“Regardless of state laws to the contrary, there is no such thing as ‘medical’ marijuana under federal law,” according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder released a letter a month before California voters considered a ballot measure to legalize recreational use of marijuana in 2010, saying the Justice Department would “vigorously” enforce federal law. The initiative failed.
A Justice Department spokesman, Dean Boyd, declined to comment yesterday when reached by telephone.
In Washington state, decriminalization and new rules on driving under the influence take effect Dec. 6. The state liquor control board must adopt rules by Dec. 1, 2013 for licensing producers, processors and retailers.
The Washington measure may generate as much as $1.9 billion in revenue over five fiscal years, according to the state’s Office of Financial Management.
Ex-DEA chiefs up pressure on Obama to denounce pot legalization measure
Posted by Jonathan Martin
On a conference call with the media Monday, former DEA administrator Peter Bensinger said his group — including all nine former DEA chiefs — had not received a response to a Sept. 7 letter sent to the Justice Department. Nor had a group of all five former drug czars, who directly asked the White House to publicly oppose the three state measures.
“It’s shocking,” said John Walters, the drug czar during the George W. Bush administration, calling marijuana legalization a “clear and present danger.
Bensinger said federal law would pre-empt state legalization measures, and former DEA administrator Rob Bonner said campaign promises that Washington and other states would reap tax revenue from marijuana sales was a “myth.”
“Quite frankly, no one is going to be reporting and paying taxes to the state if they’re committing a federal felony,” he said.
Initiative 502, on the Nov. 6 Washington ballot, would legalize, tax and regulate sales of marijuana for recreational use. Marijuana would be sold in state-licensed stores. Federal law, of course, bans marijuana use.
The Monday conference call included drug-treatment experts and a representative of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. They predicted I-502 and the similar measures in Colorado and Oregon would result in ballooning drug dependence, more drugged-driving car crashes and reduced work productivity.
“We perceive that legalizing would increase marijuana use, and it would increase the problems,” said Robert DuPont, the first director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. ” That’s a reason to not go forward.”
When California was considering legalizing marijuana in 2010, the ex-DEA chiefs prompted Attorney General Eric Holder to denounce the measure. Federal authorities would continue to “vigorously enforce” the ban on marijuana, even if California legalized, he said.
Bensinger, when pressed why a similar announcement had not been made in this election cycle, said he didn’t want to comment on the politics of legalization. But others have suggested Colorado’s situation as a swing state in the presidential election may play a role.
As the 50-minute news conference was under way, Initiative 502 released a statement from ex-U.S. Attorneys John McKay and Kate Pflaumer and ex-FBI Seattle chief Charlie Mandigo (all I-502 supporters) — asking the DOJ to remain silent. Voters “ought to be able to exercise the right to vote on their own laws free of intimidating and premature efforts to announce federal enforcement plans and influence the outcome of state elections,” according to the statement.
“Those pressuring the Justice Department to act precipitously are using the same rhetoric and arguments they have used for decades, defending federal policies that have neither ended the illegal trade in marijuana nor alleviated the violence and danger that arises from the black market.”
Holy schism emerges over marijuana legalization in Colorado, with clergy taking both sides
A vigorous back-and-forth between pot legalization supporters and foes entered the religious arena Wednesday. A slate of pastors called on Coloradans to reject making pot legal without a doctor’s recommendation.
“It’s heading to a path of total destruction,” warned Bishop Acen Phillips, who leads New Birth Temple of Praise Community Baptist Church in Denver.
About 10 pastors spoke at the event organized by the campaign to defeat the Colorado ballot proposal. If approved, the measure would allow adults over 21 to possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. Oregon and Washington have similar proposals before voters next month.
Colorado’s legalization supporters responded quickly to the holy war on pot, releasing a list of clergy members who support legalizing the drug and ending criminal penalties for its use. Those ministers argued that religious leaders and parents should guide decisions about marijuana, not the law.
“I do not support smoking pot. I do not like the stuff,” said the Rev. Bill Kirton, a retired Methodist minister in Denver. “But the harm it does is much less than sending more and more people to prison. And I think it’s time to legalize marijuana.”
Asked about supporting an illegal drug as a man of the cloth, Kirton chuckled that many of his former parishioners had probably tried marijuana. But he conceded that it can be difficult for active ministers to take a stand about the drug.
“A lot of pastors are, because of the toxic nature of current politics, they’re hesitant to speak out on issues,” Kirton said. Now retired, he said he feels more free to talk about pot. “I think there’s some hesitancy to speak out, but I think most of my peers would agree with me.”
Certainly not all of them, though. At the rival press conference, pastors warned that marijuana legalization could encourage youths to try the drug, leading to more serious problems later. They also repeated an argument made by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, that legalizing marijuana could attract drug dealers and others who prey on the needy.
“Is this really what we want for children? I don’t think it is,” said the Rev. Gail Bailey of Deliverance Tabernacle in Denver.
The anti-pot ministers also cited Colorado’s 12 years of experience as a medical marijuana state. They said that ministers currently deal with negative effects of the drug.
“We help folks with a medical marijuana card and have seen it being abused. We’ve seen it end up in the hands of children,” said Pastor Robert Woolfolk of Agape Christian Church.
The religious divide over marijuana is the latest arena in which folks are taking sides on Colorado’s pot measure. The pro-marijuana and anti-marijuana groups have in recent weeks gone back and forth over who sides with them.
After some business leaders opposed it, other business owners and a worker’s union favored it. Last week, marijuana opponents announced the support of the Colorado chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. In response, legalization supporters put out a list of 300 doctors who favor the measure.
Ads running to legalize marijuana in three states
By Carl Marcucci
In November, voters in Colorado, Washington and Oregon will consider legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Although similar initiatives have failed in the past, this time the groups fighting to legalize pot are well-organized, professional and backed by high-dollar donors willing to outspend the competition, reports Raycom News Network.
In Colorado, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) has produced several ads that say marijuana is healthier than alcohol. The campaign’s website points to medical studies that claim marijuana, unlike alcohol, has not been linked to cancer, brain damage, addiction or high healthcare costs.
CRMLA was given nearly $1.2 million from the Marijuana Policy Project, a DC-based lobbying group, as well as more than $800,000 by Peter Lewis, the founder and chairman of Progressive Insurance. Lewis has been a vocal proponent of marijuana legalization for several years and donated millions to legalization efforts around the country.
In an online video ad campaign, CRMLA has young adults explaining to their parents they prefer marijuana to alcohol. In one of the ads, titled Dear Mom, a 20-something woman tells her mother marijuana is “better for my body, I don’t get hung-over and honestly I feel safer around marijuana users.”
In Washington, rather than comparing marijuana to alcohol, New Approach Washington (NAW) is focusing on legalization, arguing outlawing cannabis does more harm than good, by wasting tax dollars on law enforcement while letting gangs control the money. She describes the possible benefits of legalization through saved law enforcement dollars and extra tax revenue.
The TV spot has a professional/executive looking woman, “I don’t like it personally, but it’s time for a conversation about legalizing marijuana. It’s a multi-million dollar industry in Washington state, and we get no benefit.”
These efforts appear to be working. In Washington, 50% of voters say marijuana should be legal while 38% say it should not, according to an Elway Research poll. And in Colorado, a Denver Post poll showed 51% of Coloradans were in favor of legalization, while 41% opposed it.
In Washington, the effort to legalize marijuana is being fought with a bankroll of between $4 and $5 million, according to the Raycom News Network story. NAW used those funds to put $1 million into television advertising during August, and hope to put triple that amount into the weeks preceding the November vote.
In total, groups in Colorado fighting to get marijuana legalized have a war chest of $2.5 million.
The campaigns are especially targeting women ages 30 to 55, whom tend to be less supportive of legalization and regulation than men.
The only visible group opposing the marijuana ballot, SMART Colorado, has been given less than $200,000 – most of it from Save Our Society, a Florida-based anti-drug group.
RBR-TVBR observation: Interesting that the Chairman of Progressive Insurance is donating so much money in this legalization effort. Perhaps legalizing it would create fewer accidents/injuries from police chases and save the insurance industry money? We doubt drivers with the stuff in their car would try to flee if it’s no more illegal than a pack of cigarettes. Who knows, but Progressive is a big corporation and Lewis seems to not be concerned about sticking his neck out on this.
Uruguay legalizes marijuana to fight crime
Uruguay's government has opted for the "regulated and controled legalization" of marijuana in the South American country as a crime-fighting measure and pledged to lobby against the current global drug-war strategy in international forums.
The prohibition of "certain drugs" in Uruguay is creating "more problems than the drugs themselves," Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro said Wednesday, noting that other similar situations in neighboring countries have had "disastrous" consequences.
The minister referred to the "dramatic situation" triggered by drug trafficking in "other Latin American countries such as Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, Brazil, and now it's starting in Ecuador."
"We don't want the same thing to happen to us in Uruguay," the defense minister said.
The administration of President Jose Mujica, currently in Brazil for the Rio+20 environmental summit, will "fight (in) all the international forums" for the legalization of marijuana, Fernandez Huidobro said.
The defense minister announced the decision to legalize the psychoactive drug at a press conference, in which he was joined by presidential secretary Alberto Breccia, Interior Minister Eduardo Bonomi and Social Development Minister Daniel Olesker.
It will now be "Uruguayan foreign policy" to combat the "prohibition (of consumption) begun in 1971 by the erroneous decision of former U.S. President Richard Nixon, who brought about the current disaster" by "declaring a war that's been won by the narcos," Fernandez Huidobro said.
Marijuana consumption was already tolerated in Uruguay, but now Mujica's leftist Broad Front government plans to overhaul existing legislation barring its production and sale and has the necessary votes in Congress to do so.
Marijuana "will be planted by the country's farmers," the defense minister said, adding that the state-regulated system will undermine illegal drug dealers.
The government says regulation of marijuana sales would help combat consumption of cocaine paste, a drug that is more powerful and addictive and which is blamed for a rise in juvenile delinquency in the South American country.
Nearly 10 percent of the population, or 300,000 people, have consumed marijuana at some point in their lives and between 127,000 and 150,000 do so "on a regular basis," creating an illegal market valued at "$75 million a year," Fernandez Huidobro said. EFE
Majority of Americans support marijuana legalizationdeathandtaxesmag.com
According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 56% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana and the regulation of it similar to alcohol and tobacco. 36% were opposed to legalization. This comes only weeks after a poll found that 74% of Americans would like President Obama to respect state medical marijuana laws, instead of continuing his anti-marijuana crusade.
Of course, opponents still believe (laughably) that marijuana leads to aggression.
“If they had asked, ‘If you knew that a majority of homicide convicts in New York had smoked marijuana within 24 hours of their convictions, would you be in favor of legalizing it?’ they would have gotten a far different answer,” said David Evans, special adviser to the Drug Free America Foundation. “These questions are so biased and leading, it’s embarrassing.”
“This is the strongest support ever recorded in favor of marijuana legalization in the U.S.,” said NORML’s Dale Gieringer. “It confirms a trend that originated in 2009, when for the first time polls began to show plurality support for legalization.”