Medical Marijuana Legislation Hot Topic For State Legislators

Following the passage of Proposition 215 in California and an Arizona provision recognizing marijuana s medical value, several state legislators have expressed interest in passing similar medical marijuana measures in their states. In Wyoming, legislation to reschedule marijuana to allow for physicians to prescribe it for medical purposes (S.F. 132) was heard today before the Labor, House and Social Services Committee. Similar legislation has also been introduced in Hawaii (H.B. 604) by Rep. David Tarnas (6th District), and a law providing for a prima facie defense for patients who are certified by the state to use marijuana to treat glaucoma, asthma, or the nausea associated with chemotherapy (H. 2170) took effect in Massachusetts last week.

Other states that have shown interest in introducing medical marijuana legislation include New Jersey, Wisconsin, New York, and Maine. NORML is currently sending comprehensive medical marijuana info-packets to legislators in these states and has offered to help identify physicians, medical marijuana experts, and patients who could testify at hearings in support of marijuana’s therapeutic value.

“Legal access to medical marijuana is a topic on the minds of many state legislatures this year,” said NORML’s Deputy Director Allen St. Pierre. “NORML and its local affiliates stand ready and willing to work with interested legislators on the state level in the months ahead.”

An unfortunate backlash to the recent national publicity regarding medical marijuana has been the response of some legislators to introduce measures repealing existing state medical marijuana laws. On January 8, Virginia Delegate Robert Marshall (R-Manassas) introduced legislation repealing an 18-year old law allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana to seriously ill patients (H.B. 1621). The bill passed in the House by an 86-13 vote today and is being referred to a Senate committee. Although Virginia’s law does not provide legal access to the drug, the state’s recognition of marijuana’s therapeutic value does help patients defend against marijuana possession charges. Meanwhile, Ohio Sen. Louis Blessing (R-Cincinnati) has introduced legislation to pull the plug on a six-month old law granting medical marijuana users an affirmative defense against marijuana possession charges. Currently, Ohio NORML activists are mobilizing against this legislation.

For more information on pending state medical marijuana legislation, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.