By David Burton
The medical cannabis revolution continues to roll and puff its way across America, with 16 states and the District of Columbia now with some form of marijuana program on their books. The latest star on the flag to go green was Delaware, which just this summer opened its doors to registered “compassion centers” providing cannabis to qualified patients.
Here’s a quick look at six other states with pending legislation that, if turned into law, would bring them into the union of the Compassionate States of America:
The Land of Lincoln remains poised to legalize the medical use of marijuana, despite the recent failure of HB 30–“The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act”–in the state’s House of Representatives. The vote was so close that it was placed on “postponed consideration” status, meaning it can be called up for a revote in the future. If approved, HB 30 would allow qualified patients to obtain their medicine from state-regulated dispensaries. A mixed bag of a measure, it would also prohibit patients from driving 12 hours after consuming cannabis, and make it illegal for dispensaries to make campaign contributions.
Residents of the land of baked beans have no less than three pieces of cannabis-friendly legislation and a ballot measure drive to support. House Bill 625 and Senate Bill 1165, introduced days apart in January, would both provide legal cover for patients and their caregivers engaging in the medical use of marijuana. A third bill, HB 1371, would tax and regulate the cannabis market in the state. Concerned that all these measures might fail in the state’s unpredictable legislature, the nonprofit group Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance has officially started the process of collecting signatures for a November 2012 vote on legalizing medical cannabis.
Holding true to the state motto, “Live Free or Die,” New Hampshire legislators continue to fight for the passage of HB 442. The measure, which passed the state’s House in March with overwhelming support (221-96) before being unceremoniously tabled by the Senate, would set up a full-fledged medical marijuana program for patients with serious illnesses or “severe pain that has not responded to previously prescribed medication.” Proponents have labored since 2009 to get the bill passed–an earlier version passed the legislature, but was then vetoed by Gov. John Lynch. Supporters vow to keep the pressure on the Senate to allow the current bill to come to a vote.
Empire State patients will have to wait a while longer for a compassionate-use program, after legislators failed to vote on SB 2774 and its Assembly counterpart, A. 7347, before recessing for the summer. But hope is not lost: SB 709, a bill that would amend the state constitution to give New Yorkers the right to enact laws through the initiative process, is wending its way through the legislatures with bipartisan support. If it passes, compassionate use might finally become reality for New Yorkers, some 71 percent registered support for medical cannabis in a recent poll.
Medical cannabis proponents have long looked to the Ohio state lawmakers to bring about a genuine compassionate-use program, only to see their efforts come to nothing again and again. Now, as a bill (HB 214) that would legalize doctor-prescribed cannabis works its way toward an uncertain fate in the state legislature, voters have decided to take matters into their own hands. Two ballot initiatives–the Ohio Alternative Treatment Amendment (OATA) and the Ohio Cannabis Act of 2012 (OMCA)–have been launched in the Buckeye State, both of which would create a system allowing for the distribution and regulation of medical cannabis in the state.
Keystone legislators introduced Senate Bill 1003–a measure that would, if passed, remove legal penalties for medical cannabis in Pennsylvania. Virtually identical to HB 1393, which died a lonely death in the legislature in 2010, SB 1003 would permit, tax and regulate cannabis for medicinal use. An interesting note about SB 1003: It’s called “The Gov. Raymond P. Shafer Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.” Shafer, a Republican who died in 2006, was appointed by President Nixon to chair a committee that was supposed to rubberstamp the government’s claim of cannabis being a dangerous drug. Instead, Shafer and fellow committee members recommended that weed be decriminalized at the federal level.