Patients and caregivers can begin enrolling in Arkansas’ medical marijuana program now, although cards will not be immediately available. While patients can apply for program enrollment now, their ID cards will not be issued until 30 days before medical cannabis becomes available from dispensaries for purchase. The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission estimates that dispensaries should be open by the end of the year or early 2018. The cost for a patient card is a nonrefundable $50 application fee. Caregivers must also undergo a $34 criminal history check. Due to an amendment to the program by the Legislature, members of the Arkansas National Guard and the U.S. military are not permitted to enroll in the program as either patients or caregivers.
Hawaii Governor David Ige signed a bill to expand the existing medical marijuana dispensary program. H.B. 1488 adds rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis to the list of qualifying conditions and allows patients and caregivers to access testing facilities. Patients and caregivers will be allowed to cultivate three additional plants of any maturity, for a total of 10 plants. The phasing out of caregivers’ ability to grow marijuana plants for patients has been pushed back five years, to the end of 2023. The new law, which went into effect on June 29, also authorizes the Department of Health to permit current licensees to open one additional dispensary — for a possible total of 24 statewide — and allows them to cultivate more plants at their production sites. It also amends certain deadlines and relaxes restrictive laboratory standards to accelerate implementation.
In June, Governor John Bel Edwards signed SB 35 into law, Senator Yvonne Colomb’s bill to prevent workers employed in the medical cannabis sector from facing felony criminal charges for going to work, which is a change to legislation that was first enacted in 1978. Legislators still need to fix other medical regulations. Specifically, the state continues to disallow the vaporization of cannabis, and state regulations actively require doctors to put their DEA licenses at risk in order to recommend patients for the program. Meanwhile, the two universities granted licenses to operate marijuana cultivation centers continue to move forward; Louisiana State University has indicated it expects medical cannabis to be available for patients before the end of the year.
The New York Senate took an important step toward improving the state’s medical marijuana program by passing S 5629, which would add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition. The Assembly had already overwhelmingly passed an identical bill, A 7006 in May (131-8). The Senate passed S 5629 50-13. The Senate’s approval means the bill now heads to Governor Cuomo’s desk. Twenty-six of the 29 states with medical marijuana programs allow patients with PTSD to qualify. In one of the states that do not, Alaska, marijuana is legal and regulated for adults 21 and older. Bills to add PTSD to state medical marijuana programs have been approved and signed into law in Colorado and Vermont this year. Legislation to add PTSD has also been approved in both chambers of the New Hampshire Legislature and is currently awaiting the governor’s signature.
West Virginia’s limited medical marijuana law officially took effect in July, although patients will not benefit from the new law for two more years. Passed earlier this year and signed into law by Governor Jim Justice in April, Senate Bill 386, also known as the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, will allow seriously ill patients to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it once the program is up and running. Qualified patients will be allowed to access cannabis-infused products, such as oils, pills and tinctures, but will not be allowed to grow their own cannabis or possess marijuana in herbal form. Dispensaries will not be allowed to sell marijuana-infused edibles, but cannabis products could be mixed into food or drinks by patients themselves. Vaporization (of oils) is allowed, but smoking is prohibited.