Posts Tagged ‘medical marijuana news’

Massachusetts Court: Employees Can’t be Fired for Medical Cannabis

cannabis-lawsuitFollowing up on a hot button issue this week: In a first of its kind ruling, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decreed on Monday that employers in the state cannot fire employees for medical cannabis use.

Cristina Barbuto was fired after her first day at Advantage Sales and Marketing after she testing positive for marijuana. Barbuto has a prescription for medical marijuana to treat Crohn’s disease, something she disclosed to the company after being told that she would need to take a mandatory drug test. Barbuto’s supervisor told her twice that her cannabis use shouldn’t be a problem, as long as she didn’t use it before or during work.

But after she’d completed her first day of work, an HR representative told her that her employment was terminated because, “We follow federal law, not state law.”

Barbuto filed suit against the employer, claiming that her termination violated state anti-discrimination laws. The case reached the state supreme court after being dismissed in 2015. Similar cases have been filed in the past, but have often ruled against the employee.

In this ruling, the state supreme court said that, “the use and possession of medically prescribed marijuana by a qualifying patient is as lawful as the use and possession of any other prescribed medication.”

Similar cases have been tried in Colorado, California, Washington, and Montana. In each, the court ruled that employers could fire workers for legal, off the clock, cannabis use because it is still illegal under federal law.

“I can’t stress this enough, it’s the first case of its kind in the country,” said Dale Deitchler, a shareholder at world’s largest labor and employment law firm and an expert on marijuana issues in the workplace.

“Massachusetts is not a state where such protections are written in the law so this is really significant,” Deitchler said. “The court created law.”

The ruling means that the case will be sent back to the Suffolk County Superior Court, the court that initially dismissed Barbuto’s suit.

The justices concluded that, “An employee’s use of medical marijuana under these circumstances is not facially unreasonable as an accommodation of her handicap.” However, “it does not necessarily mean that the employee will prevail in proving proof of handicap discrimination”, If accommodating an employee’s medical cannabis use, “would create undue hardship” on an employer.”

“Undue hardship” would apply, for example, in the transportation industry, where cannabis use would impair an employee’s ability to do their work or endanger public safety. Past cases have been with employees with less physically stressful jobs so this ruling has not yet applied. Let’s hope this means a step forward for cannabis patients’ rights!

 

Will Jeff Sessions Crack Down on Legal Marijuana?

In his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala) answered questions about his stance on marijuana and the enforcement of federal laws.

Sessions, President-elect Trump’s choice for U.S. attorney general, has been a staunch opponent of legal cannabis, making many in the cannabis industry nervous. In April 2016, Sessions criticized the Obama administration during a Senate drug hearing. He said, “I think one of [Obama’s] great failures, it’s obvious to me, is his lax treatment in comments on marijuana. It reverses 20 years almost of hostility to drugs that began really when Nancy Reagan started ‘Just Say No.'”

The Obama administration has taken a largely hands-off approach to marijuana, leaving it up to states to set and enforce their own policies.

During the hearing, Sessions refused to take a definitive stance on cannabis, leaving the cannabis industry unsure of how he’ll approach marijuana policy. In a nutshell, he said that if Americans don’t want him to enforce federal drug laws, then the laws themselves need to be changed.

“It’s not so much the attorney general’s job to decide what laws to enforce. We should do our jobs and enforce laws effectively as we’re able,” Sessions said during his hearing. “The U.S. Congress made the possession of marijuana in every state — and the distribution — an illegal act. If that’s something that’s not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule.”

Under current federal law, cannabis is still considered to have no medicinal value and has been classified as a Schedule I drug along with heroin and LSD.

During the confirmation hearing, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) questioned Sessions on how he would approach medical marijuana. “Would you use our federal resources to investigate and prosecute sick people who are using marijuana in accordance with their state laws, even though it might violate federal laws?”

“I won’t commit to never enforcing federal law, Senator Leahy,” Sessions replied. “I think some of [the Obama-era guidelines] are truly valuable in evaluating cases,” he added. “Using good judgment about how to handle these cases will be a responsibility of mine. I know it won’t be an easy decision, but I will try to do my duty in a fair and just way.”

While it’s still unclear what the future holds for marijuana in the U.S., there’s some comfort in that, even if Sessions decided to enforce existing law, it would still take enormous federal resources. 28 states have legalized medical marijuana, along with eight states that have passed recreational cannabis laws.

The State of Marijuana: 2016

We made it! The election is finally over–and the big winner is definitely cannabis.

mmj-chart

Recreational marijuana initiatives were on the ballot in five states, with Arizona as the only holdout.

Here are the state-by-state results:

  • Arizona: Proposition 205, which would have legalized recreational marijuana use for adults 21 and older, failed, with 52% against.
    Medical marijuana was legalized in Arizona in 1996.
     
  • California: Voters approved Proposition 64, and the state is poised to become the country’s largest cannabis market. The measure had 4,952,476 votes for, or 56 percent, to 3,920,303 votes against, or 44 percent. Proposition 64 legalizes recreational cannabis use for people 21 and older. Marijuana will be subject to 15% sales tax.
    In 1996, California was the first state to make medical marijuana legal.
     
  • Maine: Results of a ballot measure to legalize recreational cannabis in Maine is still too close to call. “Yes” votes to Question 1 are in the lead, but votes are still being counted.
     
  • Massachusetts: Question 4 passed in Massachusetts with 54% in favor. Medical marijuana became legal in Massachusetts in 2012.
    The passage of Question 4 allows people 21 and older could use, possess or grow cannabis. They can have under 10 ounces in their home and under 1 ounce in public and be allowed to grow six plants.
     
  • Nevada: Question No. 2 passed with 52% in favor. The initiative is similar to laws adopted in Washington and Colorado, which tax and regulate cannabis like alcohol. Legalization in the Silver State permits anyone 21 or over to purchase recreational cannabis.
     

As of Tuesday’s election, medical cannabis is legal in more than half of U.S. states (28 states and Washington D.C.).

  • Florida: Medical marijuana was one of the most contested issues on the Florida ballot, but in the end 71% of voters approved Amendment 2. Florida is the second largest medical marijuana market in the country, behind California.
    A vote in 2014 barely defeated a similar medical marijuana amendment. The measure received about 57% of the vote; 60% support is required to pass a ballot measure in Florida.
     
  • Arkansas: With the passage of Issue No. 6, Arkansas is the first state in the Bible Belt to legalize medical marijuana. The initiative passed with 53% in favor.
     
  • North Dakota: 64% of voters approved Statutory Measure No. 5, legalizing the use of medical marijuana to treat defined debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer, AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, glaucoma, and epilepsy.
     
  • Montana: Ballot Initiative 182 passed on Tuesday, loosening restrictions on medical marijuana as well as adding post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of eligible conditions.
     

While the results of the presidential election may leave some questions up in the air as to the state of legal marijuana federally, this was a huge state-by-state advancement for cannabis!

Presidential Candidates Weigh in on Marijuana

white-house-cannabisBoth marijuana and the political race have dominated the news in recent months, and the outcome of the presidential election could have a huge impact on marijuana policy nationwide. Democrats and Republicans have widely different positions on medical and recreational cannabis. The Marijuana Policy Project has published the candidates’ positions and on-the-record statements, summarized here:

Democrats:

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D)

In November 2015, Senator Sanders proposed legislation that would allow states to regulate marijuana like alcohol and tobacco. He has expressed concern regarding marijuana incarceration rates: “Someone in the United States is arrested every minute on marijuana charges. Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That’s wrong. That has got to change.”

The proposed legislation would remove marijuana from federal drug schedules, and marijuana businesses would have access to banking and standard tax deductions.

“Bernie favors removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances regulated by federal law. Under Bernie’s proposal, people in states which legalize marijuana no longer would be subject to federal prosecution for using pot. Owners of stores that sell marijuana could fully participate in the banking system, like any other business.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D)

Secretary Clinton supports reclassifying marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II, which would finally allow broader scientific research. She does not support incarceration for marijuana use or possession. Clinton has not taken a clear position on recreational marijuana laws, saying that she wants to wait and see what happens in states that have legalized it.

“I think that we have the opportunity through the states that are pursuing recreational marijuana to find out a lot more than we know today. I do support the use of medical marijuana, and I think even there we need to do a lot more research so that we know exactly how we’re going to help people for whom medical marijuana provides relief.”

Republicans:

Donald Trump (R)

TV personality and businessman Donald Trump has changed his position on marijuana since 1990, when he supported legalizing all drugs. He supports medical marijuana and states’ rights in constructing marijuana policies. He does not support legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use.

In June 2015, Trump said, “I’d say [regulating marijuana] is bad. Medical marijuana is another thing, but I think it’s bad and I feel strongly about that. [Moderator: “What about the states’ right aspect of it?”] If they vote for it, they vote for it… But I think, medical marijuana, 100%.”

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R)

Senator Cruz has previously criticized President Obama for not enforcing federal law after Colorado and Washington approved recreational marijuana use. In more recent months, he’s come out in favor of states’ rights, although he does not support drug legalization.

“That’s a legitimate question for the states to make a determination. And the citizens of Colorado and Washington State have come to a different conclusion. They’ve decided that they want to legalize it. I think it is appropriate for the federal government to recognize that the citizens of those states have made that decision. One of the benefits of it … is we can now watch and see what happens in Colorado and Washington State.”

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R)

Senator Marco Rubio does not support legalization of recreational or medical marijuana. In February 2016, he said, “There’s no positive impact to using marijuana,” and that if there are any medical benefits it should be taken to the FDA for approval. In a July 2014 interview, Senator Rubio said, “If there are medicinal uses of marijuana that don’t have the elements that are mind-altering or create the high but do alleviate whatever condition it may be they are trying to alleviate, that is something I would be open to.”

He believes that the federal government should enforce drug laws, even in states that have legalized marijuana. When asked if he would enforce federal law and shut down regulation in Colorado:

“Yes. Yes, I think, well, I think we need to enforce our federal laws. Now do states have a right to do what they want? They don’t agree with it, but they have their rights. But they don’t have a right to write federal policy as well. It is, I don’t believe we should be in the business of legalizing additional intoxicants in this country for the primary reason that when you legalize something, what you’re sending a message to young people is it can’t be that bad, because if it was that bad, it wouldn’t be legal.”

Governor John Kasich (R)

Ohio Governor John Kaisch is “totally opposed” to medical and recreational marijuana.

When asked about states that have adopted laws making marijuana legal for adults: “The people in those states have voted that way. The federal government has decided to kind of look the other way. I feel very strongly in my state, I’m going to oppose, and they’re going to put something on the ballot to legalize drugs. I’m totally opposed to it, because it is a scourge in this country. Now I would have to give it thought as to, I probably would not from the standpoint that the states have gone forward to prove that. I haven’t thought about this. I’d have to give it a little thought. … In my state and across this country, if I happened to be president, I would lead a significant campaign down at the grassroots level to stomp these drugs out of our country.”

 

Read more about presidential candidates and their positions on cannabis at Marijuana Policy Project: https://www.mpp.org/2016-presidential-candidates/

Numbers Announced for First Medical Marijuana Sales in Illinois

cannabis-akIt’s been a big month for medical marijuana in Illinois. Patients bought approximately $801,000 in legal weed during the first month of sales in Illinois, generating nearly $56,550 in taxes for the state. Program director of the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, Joseph Wright, announced the figures on December 9th, saying that 1,713 unique patients visited dispensaries–nearly half of the 3,600 patients enrolled in the program.

16 licensed dispensaries are currently open in Illinois, with the number expected to increase to 25 dispensaries by the end of the year. While the total number of patients enrolled in the program is still relatively low (the application process includes electronically scanned fingerprints for a criminal background check, doctor certification of qualifying medical condition, and an application fee of $100) if Illinois follows the pattern set by other states with medical marijuana programs, demand is sure to increase.

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