In December, Dr. Ed Ehlinger, the Minnesota Commissioner of Health, announced the department will add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis. Patients who suffer from PTSD and have their doctor’s certification will be eligible to sign up for a medical cannabis card beginning August 2017. Dr. Ehlinger also announced that the department will expand the program by allowing medical cannabis topicals, including patches, lotions, creams, gels, and ointments. Last year, intractable pain was added to the Minnesota program. The program — one of the most limited in the nation — had suffered from a lack of patient participation due to few qualifying conditions.
In November, Denver voters approved a ballot initiative to allow social cannabis use in certain private businesses. Initiated Ordinance 300 (I-300) was too close to call on Election Day, but once all the ballots were counted, it ended up receiving 53.5 percent of the vote. Calling for the implementation of a four-year pilot program, I-300 would allow businesses, including bars, cafés, and even yoga studios, to seek city-issued permits to create “consumption areas.” For private establishments to be permitted by the city to allow adult cannabis consumption in designated areas, establishments will have received formal support from their officially recognized neighborhood organization or business-improvement district, and recipients will be required to follow a number of guidelines.
Representative Joe Moody (D-El Paso), former prosecutor and the current Vice Chairman of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, has filed a marijuana-related bill for the upcoming legislative session. Rep. Moody introduced HB 81, which would replace possible arrests and jail time with a civil fine for low-level possession of marijuana. The bill, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), would make possession of one ounce or less of marijuana a non-criminal offense punishable by a fine of $250. Under current law, possession of two ounces or less is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail. Senator Jose Rodríguez, also of El Paso, introduced a Senate companion bill, SB 170.
Four Ohio communities passed local ordinances reducing penalties for marijuana possession to none. Adopting the new measures on Election Day, Ohio residents voted to remove all penalties for the possession of 200 grams or less of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia with no jail time or fines under local ordinance. The towns of Bellaire, Logan, Newark, and Roseville each adopted similar ballot measures. The measures only affect violations in those jurisdictions, not the whole county. Similar efforts are already underway in Cleveland, Lorain and a handful of other communities.
On Dec. 1, the New York Department of Health announced that it will add chronic pain as a qualifying condition for the state’s medical marijuana program. The Department will develop a proposed regulatory amendment, which will include language specifying the chronic pain conditions that would qualify for medical marijuana. Under current law, patients only qualify if their pain is caused by qualifying conditions. The other ten qualifying conditions are cancer, HIV infection or AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, and Huntington’s disease.