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Arkansas Voters Likely to get a Chance to Vote on Medical Marijuana This Fall
An Arkansas initiative to legalize medical marijuana looks like it will qualify for the November ballot after supporters handed in 74,000 more signatures Monday. The group, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, needs 62,507 valid voter signatures to qualify and already has more than 36,000 qualified from a previous signature hand-in.
Which means they only need about 26,000 of the new 74,000 to be valid for the measure to make the ballot. Most ballot initiatives look for about a 50% success rate with valid signatures.
Melissa Fults, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, said the group had learned more about the process after handing in its first batch of signatures. During the second round, the group made sure volunteers and paid canvassers were careful when checking that signers were indeed registered to vote.
"I don't think there's much of a chance we won't" qualify for the ballot, Fults said.
Supporters should find out by next week whether or not they were successful.
The ballot measure itself – The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act - would allow patients suffering from certain medical conditions to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. It would allow for a system of state-licensed non-profit dispensaries, and would allow patients or their caregivers to grow their own only if they are not within five miles of a dispensary. In that case, patients could grow up to six flowering plants and patients would be allowed to possess up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana.
It would be easy to dismiss this attempt as a nice first try in a bible belt state, but considering the ease with which supporters gathered signatures, the vote may be close this fall. Arkansas could be the tipping point when it comes to medical marijuana in the southeastern part of the country.
Arizona Medical Marijuana Card Database Used Frequently by Cops and Employers
Under provisions in the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, the state Department of Health Services had to set up and maintain a computer list of registered patients and caregivers for the purpose of ensuring that patients don't get arrested if caught with pot by police.
The database, which now contains info on about 40,000 patients and caregivers, can't be searched by inputting names or addresses. Only a registration card number can be submitted for verification. Meaning law enforcement can’t look up people they might want to target.
So far 2,646 access accounts have been created for people to check on the validity of medical-marijuana cards. Police departments, sheriff's offices, and even federal outfits like the Border Patrol and ATF are among the agencies that have set up accounts. The DEA only has one account that it has not used. Of over 2,600 accounts, 851 are from the Phoenix Police Department.
The database is used by police to check the validity of the medical marijuana registration of someone they have just pulled over, for example. Employers use it to make sure their employees who test positive for marijuana are indeed legal patients.
Among the employers who have created accounts to check medical marijuana registration numbers are Arizona Game and Fish, Go Daddy, Swift Transportation and PetSmart.
The list also contains many drug-testing businesses. Chad Haas, spokesman for Complete Testing Solutions, says his company routinely validates medical-marijuana cards for employees who have been ordered to take a drug test by their employer. Haas says that it has been his experience that employers "are pretty lenient" about their card-holding employees unless the patient has a job that could involve danger to others, such as a bus driver.
Progress continues in Arizona despite the best efforts of the Governor and her Attorney General.
New Medical Marijuana Rules Clear Michigan Senate Panel
In an attempt to reign in a supposedly out-of-control medical marijuana program in Michigan, a state Senate panel has approved several changes to the program.
Proposed changes to the law were approved Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Versions of the measures have already been approved in the House, and now they move to the Senate floor.
Some lawmakers and Attorney General Bill Schuette say changes are needed to Michigan’s voter-approved 2008 law that allows marijuana use for medical purposes. Schuette has said the law has “more holes than Swiss cheese.”
House Bill 4851 looks to clarify the doctor-patient relationship, since some lawmakers think it’s too easy to get a medical marijuana recommendation. Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, said one goal is to have doctors and patients meet "face to face, not over the Internet."
More insidiously, House Bill 4834 would allow law enforcement to have access to medical marijuana patient information, meaning the police would have all the evidence they needed to prosecute any patient on federal charges.
Law enforcement always claims they have the best intentions when it comes to information, but the fact is information can be used for any purpose. Everything a medical marijuana patient does in Michigan with cannabis is illegal under federal law, whether it be possession, use, cultivation or distribution. According to the DEA they are criminals. What is to stop the DEA from easily accessing medical information in Michigan to use against patients when they run out of other targets?
Things have been contentious to say the least between patients/caregivers and law enforcement in Michigan since voters approved the state’s MMJ law in 2008. More regulations can seem like a way to makes things clearer, but if the result is less access for patients, then clarity shouldn’t be the goal.
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New Medical Marijuana Rules in Maine cause Controversy
After a public hearing Monday on a controversial new rules for medical marijuana, Rep. Deb Sanderson, R-Chelsea, said the state should not implement rules that are more restrictive and divergent from the intent of the citizen's initiative legalizing medical marijuana passed in 2009.
"Hopefully the department will take into serious consideration much of the compelling testimony that was put before them," Sanderson said Tuesday. The plan now is to meet with the stakeholders, "folks that are in the industry, patients, physicians," Sanderson said, "so when the rules do come out in their final form, they're a clear reflection of the intent of the legislation."
"Over 175 people packed the State House on Monday to express discontent, grief and sometimes anger with proposed restrictions on the ability of patients and caregivers to legally cultivate medical marijuana," said Hillary Lister, an advocate for medical marijuana use in Maine.
In a statement, Lister said the proposed rules "would severely restrict the ability of patients to legally cultivate their medicine outdoors. Cultivation would not be allowed within 25 feet of any property boundary, and plants would be required to be enclosed by an 8 foot privacy fence, with motion sensitive lighting. The site would have to be at residence where the grower is living, and the department could require unspecified 'other security measures' at any time."
But Sanderson said the 8-foot rule would put an extra financial burden on people, when the standard fence is six feet.
Dr. Dustin Sulak, medical director at Maine Integrative Healthcare questioned some proposals as well, saying, "For example, in a neighborhood with no fences higher than 6 feet, an 8-foot fence would stand out like a target. Additionally, erecting such a fence would likely be cost prohibitive to many patients. Requiring such a fence be at least 25 feet from property boundary lines would likely discriminate against patients with small lots. Security lights may interrupt the flowering cycle of cannabis plants that require periods of darkness and compromise the quality of the medicine."
You can be sure politicians and officials in the state will continue to haggle over medical cannabis regulations for many months to come.
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