The wave of reform that’s swept across the U.S. this year has been swift, with lawmakers and citizens across the nation standing up for a change in the longstanding, propaganda-laden prohibition on cannabis. This year alone an initiative to legalize cannabis has qualified for the ballot in Alaska, signatures have been submitted for a similar initiative in Oregon and Washington D.C., and 8 states have passed laws legalizing some form of cannabis. Because of the latter, the number of states in the U.S. that have legalized at least some form of cannabis – whether it be full legalization or simply the allowance of the cannabis compound cannabidiol – has reached 31, or 62% of the entire country.
Here’s a list of states that have new medical cannabis laws which were approved by lawmakers this year (for a list of the other states with medical cannabis laws, click here):
On May 29th Governor Mark Dayton signed into law a proposal which legalizes medical cannabis in Minnesota. Although smoking cannabis isn’t allowed (oddly enough as it is), vaporizing cannabis is, as is consuming cannabis through a variety of other methods such as edibles, tinctures, oils and lotions. Dispensaries will be authorized to distribute cannabis to qualified patients, with sales expected to begin by July 1st of 2015.
As of July 1st of this year, the possession and use of the cannabis compound cannabidiol is legal to possess and use for those who receive a recommendation from a neurologist, and a registration card from the state’s Department of Health. The measure was signed into law by the state’s governor in March; it passed the Senate unanimously, and the House 62 to 11.
House Bill 1321, which legalizes medical cannabis, was signed into law by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley on April 15th. The measure legalizes the possession and use of medical cannabis for those with a qualifying condition such as cancer and chronic pain. The bill also legalizes cannabis dispensaries, with 94 being allowed throughout the state. Dispensaries will purchase their cannabis from licensed cultivation centers. The proposal is an extension of a law passed in 2013 which authorized academic medical centers in the state to distribute medical cannabis.
- North Carolina
On Thursday, July 3rd, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed House Bill 1220 into law, a bill which legalizes low-THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), high-CBD (cannabidiol) cannabis extracts for medical purposes. The measure allows neurologists to distribute the medicine, and allows (as well as encourages) colleges in the state to study CBD as a potential treatment for intractable childhood epilepsy.
Under a new law signed by the state’s governor in April, universities in the state with a school of medicine will be authorized to produce and distribute the cannabis extract cannabidiol to qualified patients who receive a recommendation from one of the university’s physicians. The measure also allows anyone enrolled in an FDA trial (two such trials were approved by the FDA last year) to be legally treated with cannabis oil. The bill passed the state’s House and Senate both with a unanimous vote.
A bill signed into law in April authorizes the University of Alabama’s Department of Neurology to prescribe, produce and distribute low-THC cannabis extracts (such as cannabis oil and tincture) to those with seizure disorders. The bill, named Carly’s Law in honor of 3-year-old Carly Chandler who suffers from epilepsy, will be funded with $1 million from the state’s Education Trust Fund.
As with Kentucky’s law, the bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously.
Yet another bill signed in April, a new Wisconsin law allows physicians in the state to recommend as well as distribute low-THC, high-CBD cannabis extracts for medical purposes. The proposal was approved unanimously by the Senate, and took effect immediately after the governor signed it.
A bill legalizing low-THC cannabis extracts for those with cancer, epilepsy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was signed into law by the state’s governor last month. The bill, which appropriates $1,000,000 in funding to the state’s Department of Health to be used exclusively for studying cannabidiol and its effects on “intractable childhood epilepsy”, legalizes a small number of dispensaries to be placed throughout the state, to provide safe access to cannabis extracts for patients.
Under new law which took effect on July 1st, those who receive a recommendation from a neurologist and subsequently receive a registration card from the state’s Department of Public Health will be authorized to possess and use up to 32 ounces of cannabidiol.
A Mississippi bill which, like Iowa and and Utah, took effect on July 1st, legalizes low-THC cannabis extracts for those with seizure disorders. The University of Mississippi Medical Center is authorized to dispense the medicine.
Most of these changes involve the legalization of cannabis extracts, and not the whole cannabis plant, and the conditions that qualify someone to be a patient are far too limited. Clearly this doesn’t go far enough, and activists should continue to fight for further reform. Still, we should be encouraged by how quickly and drastically the conversation has shifted. Rather than lawmakers claiming the decades-long facade that cannabis isn’t a medicine, they’re embracing its medical potential by legalizing it, or at the very least legalizing its extracts. Each of these states approving medical cannabis bills, even CBD-only measures, is another state making the case that cannabis shouldn’t be a Schedule 1 drug, which means by federal standards it has no medical value.
We should use these victories as springboards for further reform. The conversation has opened up in a tremendous way (for example, the U.S. House recently voted to defund medical cannabis raids). It’s only a matter of time before more lawmakers begin to understand the medical potential of cannabis as a whole, and start to respect the fact that a large majority of people favor an end to its prohibition.