The Cannabis Compassion and Care Act (House Bill 2198 and Senate Bill 9) is designed to provide protection for patients, caregivers and physicians from penalties surrounding medical cannabis, and to create safe access points, or compassion centers, for patients to obtain medication.
The measures would also establish a “compassion board” under the Department of Health and Environment, as well as a patient/caregiver registry, complete with I.D. cards.
The bill reads as such:
A qualifying patient who has been issued and possesses a registry identification card shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including, but not limited to, civil penalty or disciplinary action by a court or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for the medical use of cannabis in accordance with this act, provided that the qualifying patient possesses an amount of cannabis that does not exceed 12 cannabis plants and six ounces of usable cannabis.
Patients may also have up to 12 seedlings, which won’t count towards their plant/possession limits. The same rules apply for caregivers, who may assist up to 5 qualified patients. The measures define a qualifying patient as “a person who has been diagnosed by a practitioner as having a debilitating medical condition.” Qualifying medical conditions are listed as:
Cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, nail patella, migraine, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, lupus, spinal disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and conditions for which cannabis has been found to be beneficial or the treatment of these conditions;
A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: Cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe pain; severe nausea; seizures, including, but not limited to, those characteristic of epilepsy or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including, but not limited to, those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.
The measures also establish protections for patients from discriminatory practices, a cautionary step many medical cannabis measures miss:
(1) No school or landlord may refuse to enroll or lease to, or otherwise penalize, a person solely for such person’s status as a registered qualifying patient or a registered designated caregiver, unless failing to do so would put the school or landlord in violation of federal law or regulations. (2) For the purposes of medical care, including organ transplants, a registered qualifying patient’s authorized use of cannabis in accordance with this act shall be considered the equivalent of the authorized use of any other medication used at the direction of a physician, and shall not constitute the use of an illicit substance. (3) Unless a failure to do so would put an employer in violation of federal law or federal regulations, an employer may not discriminate against a person in hiring, termination or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize a person, if the discrimination is based upon either of the following: (A) The person’s status as a registered qualifying patient or registered designated caregiver; or (B) a registered qualifying patient’s positive drug test for cannabis components or metabolites, unless the patient used, possessed or was impaired by cannabis on the premises of the place of employment or during the hours of employment. (g) A person shall not be denied custody of, visitation or parenting time with a minor and there shall be no presumption of neglect or child endangerment for conduct allowed under this act, unless the person’s behavior is such that it creates an unreasonable danger to the safety of the minor as established by clear and convincing evidence.
A provision was also included to restrict authorities from cooperating with any federal interference of patients’ rights:
Where a state-funded or locally-funded law enforcement agency encounters an individual who, during the course of the investigation, credibly asserts that such individual is a registered cardholder or an entity whose personnel credibly assert that it is a compassion center, the law enforcement agency shall not provide any information from any cannabis-related investigation of the person to any law enforcement authority that does not recognize the protection of this act.
If passed, the compassion board established in this measure will have 90 days to establish recommendations for regulations, and to determine requirements for those wishing to apply for patient or compassion center status. The bills state that:
If at any time after the 110 days following the effective date of this act, the department is not accepting applications, including if it has not created rules and regulations allowing qualifying patients to submit applications, a notarized statement by a qualifying patient containing the information required in an application, pursuant to subsection (a) of section 7, and amendments thereto, together with a written certification shall be deemed a valid registry identification card.