Posted by Talana Lattimer
I spent the last three years working as an Executive Legislative Assistant to a ranking budget chair in the Washington State Legislature, so it should come as no surprise that a trip to the Nation’s Capitol has always been high on my bucket list. I was this close to fulfilling my dream in 2008, after scrimping and saving for over two years on a relatively low salary. Unfortunately, prohibition happened.
I became a medical cannabis patient in ‘05 while living in Oregon. At that time, I did not know that I had a rare genetic disorder; only that I had long been suffering from chronic joint and muscle pain, extreme nausea and vomiting, disabling migraines and eventual insomnia. After an honest conversation with my doctor about the handfuls of pills I was taking to mask the symptoms – at the ripe ol’ age of 25, mind you – it was suggested that cannabis might relieve what ailed me. I was honestly taken aback when it worked so well and I was able to wean myself off every single pharmaceutical.
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) opened the eyes of this thirty-three year law enforcement veteran. Caught in the whirlpool of drug prohibition policy, prohibitionist law enforcement folks as I once was, forget the importance of maintaining an open mind. Unfortunately, “ group-think” is where most of us tend to feel comfortable.
Until roughly four years ago, I knew virtually nothing of medical marijuana. I must say that I was somewhat skeptical of the claim for its medicinal properties. My knowledge of marijuana originated from two places, my experimentation as a teen in 1975 and from an enforcement perspective throughout my lengthy law enforcement career. Neither provided any meaningful insight to the medicinal properties or benefits of marijuana.
Today in Congress, Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Sam Farr introduced legislation that would reclassify cannabis (marijuana) for medical use and provide federal defendants the right to use state law compliance as evidence in medical marijuana trials, a right that patients are currently denied. These bills, the H.R. 689 ”States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act,” and the H.R. 710 “Truth in Trials Act” have been introduced in previous sessions of Congress, but many are optimistic that the 113th Congress will take the issue more seriously than in years past. One reason for this optimism is the first major federal medical cannabis patient lobbying day, which will be held on February 25th in support of these two bills.
Every year during medical marijuana week, I like to sit down and consider what I’m thankful about in the medical cannabis movement. After such a turbulent year fraught with raids, bad court decisions, and friends being sent to federal prison, I find I’m most thankful for the brave medical cannabis warriors who have lost their freedom for our cause. For this reason, the theme of ASA’s MMJ Week activities is “Have a Heart for our POWs.”
Earlier in the week, we posted a blog from one of our Board Members, Dr. Karen Munkacy, who is working hard on making sure that implementation of Massachusetts’ medical cannabis program goes smoothly. Of course, Massachusetts scored a huge victory for safe access when they passed their initiative last November, but few people understand that this is only the first step towards ensuring patients get access to legal medicine in a state. The battle we’re fighting now, with the help of advocates like Dr. Munkacy, is making sure that the rules and regulations for the program are composed in a way that most benefits the patients.
The good news is that what has truly been a battle in other states has become a welcome and open dialogue with the MA Department of Public Health (DPH), who is charged with the difficult task of interpreting the initiative while writing the program’s regulations. In fact, DPH is actually looking for public input on a number of issues and are holding Townhall-type meetings called “Listening Sessions” in the next few weeks. This is a great opportunity for MA patients and advocates to submit comments on these seven issues:
In a highly-publicized and widely-watched medical marijuana case, the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday on whether municipalities should be able to ban local medical marijuana distribution, an activity deemed legal under state law. For all of the controversy and strenuous arguments made on both sides of the issue, those who stand the most to lose — medical marijuana patients themselves — were completely ignored.
In the case City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center, the abstract but quantifiable impact of dispensary bans is that tens of thousands of patients are left without safe and legal access to their medication, mainly as a result of hostile or reluctant local officials. Today, more than 50 localities in California have adopted ordinances regulating the lawful distribution of medical marijuana, while more than 200 of the state’s cities and counties have banned dispensaries outright. For the past 7 years, city councils and county boards of supervisors have passed bans with complete disregard to the impact on their most vulnerable residents.
As most of you know, Massachusetts passed a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana (MMJ) last November 6. Although we were optimistic it would pass, we were very pleased when 63% of the voters, nearly 1.9 million people voted for this.
The Massachusetts Medical Society (which has over 24,000 physician members) had been against the ballot initiative from the campaign’s infancy. I attended their biannual meeting last November 30, where they were voting on whether to recommend delaying implementation of the ballot initiative, and if they should recommend physicians turn in other physicians to the licensing board if they recommended medical cannabis.