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Medical Marijuana Update

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1205)

An Arkansas medical marijuana expansion initiative is cleared for signature-gathering, Wisconsin GOP lawmakers declare medical marijuana is dead for the session, and more.


Arkansas Attorney General Okays Medical Marijuana Expansion Initiative for Signature-Gathering. State Attorney General Tim Griffin (R) on Tuesday gave the official go-ahead for a medical marijuana initiative, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2024, to begin signature-gathering in a bid to appear on the November ballot.

The measure would expand the state's existing medical marijuana program by allowing more healthcare providers to recommend the drug to patients and vastly expanding the number of conditions for which it could be used. It would also recognize patients from other states and make patient cards good for three years instead of the current one year. And it includes a provision that would legalize adult-use marijuana if federal pot prohibition ends.

Griffin rejected an earlier version of the initiative, saying there were ambiguities and "misleading" language, but the initiative backers have now satisfied his concerns.

They have July 5 to collect 90,704 valid voter signatures from registered voters to qualify for the November ballot.


Maryland Senate Committee Approves Bill to Protect Patients' Gun Rights Under State Law. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill meant to protect medical marijuana patients' right to bear firearms under state law, Senate Bill 348.

The bill passed without debate, except from bill sponsor and committee chair Sen. Mike McKay (R), who noted that "we've passed the bill like probably five times" over recent sessions, though the measure has not yet been enacted into law.

The bill would protect the rights of registered medical cannabis patients to buy, own, and carry firearms under Maryland law, even though they are still restricted from doing so under federal statute.

The measure now heads for a Senate floor vote. Companion legislation in the House, House Bill 296, has yet to move in committee.


Nebraska Poll Has Support for Medical Marijuana at 70 Percent. A new poll from the Neilan Strategy Group has support for legalizing medical marijuana at 70 percent in the Cornhusker State. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, which has been trying for years to get a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot, is trying again this year.

"Nebraskans are clearly ready to legalize medical marijuana," said Perre Neilan of Neilan Strategy Group.

Crista Eggers of Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana said Monday the poll results are similar to what they've seen in recent years and is not surprised "whatsoever."

"Nebraskans are obviously ready to legalize medicinal cannabis," she said.

The group needs valid voter signatures from about 86,000 state voters and they need at least 5 percent of voters from 38 of the state's 93 counties. Eggers said Monday that they already had 32,000 signatures and have qualified in 24 counties already and that they are "much farther ahead" than in 2020 or 2022.

"We're very excited about where we're at," she said. "This time, we're going to get it done or it is not going to happen."

South Carolina

South Carolina Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The state Senate on Wednesday approved a medical marijuana bill from Sen. Tom Davis (R), Senate Bill 423. The final vote was 24-19 and came a day after the Senate gave it initial approval.

The Senate passed an earlier version of the bill in 2022, only to see it stalled in the House. This bill now goes to the House.

Davis said his goal had always been to "come up with the most conservative medical cannabis bill in the country that empowered doctors to help patients -- but at the same time tied itself to science, to addressing conditions for which there’s empirically based data saying that cannabis can be of medical benefit."

He added that he thought his bill "can actually be used by several states that maybe regret their decision to allow recreational use, or they may be looking to tighten up their medical laws so that it becomes something more stringent."

The bill would allow patients to obtain medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries if they have a doctor's recommendation for treatment of specified qualifying conditions as well as for terminal illnesses and chronic diseases where opioids are the standard of care.

South Dakota

South Dakota: Lawmakers Roll Back Employment Protections for State-Registered Medical Marijuana Patients. House and Senate lawmakers have passed legislation, Senate Bill12, rolling back certain employment protections for state-authorized medical marijuana patients. The voter-approved 2020 initiative legalizing medical marijuana included those protections, but this bill would allow employers to either fire or refuse to hire patients for "safety-sensitive jobs" if they test positive for THC metabolites on a drug screen. The legislation also prohibits patients from suing an employer for wrongful termination if they fail an employer-mandated drug test.

Republic Gov. Kristi Noem is expected to sign the bill, affecting more than 8,500 South Dakotans who are registered with the state medical marijuana program.


Virginia Bill to Protect Medical Marijuana-Using State Employees Passes House. A bill that would allow public sector employees to use medical marijuana without losing their jobs, House Bill 149, extends to state public employees' rights that already exist in the private sector. The bill passed with bipartisan support on a 78-20 vote.

Bill sponsor Del. Dan Helmer (D-Fairfax County) sponsored legislation three years ago to protect medical patients, but that bill "unintentionally did not protect public-sector employees," Helmer said. "The key was we left our brave first responders out of this," Helmer said. "That was never our intent and so this bill is meant to fix that."

Similar legislation in the Senate, Senate Bill 391, introduced by Sen. Stella Pekarsky (D-Fairfax County), also offers protection to public sector employees, except for law enforcement officers. The bill passed the Senate with a 30-10 vote.

Now, those two bills will have to be reconciled.


Wisconsin Republican Medical Marijuana Effort Dead. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) said Friday that the restrictive medical marijuana bill he was supporting is dead and that he is no longer willing to call a floor vote on it. He made the announcement after Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) had made clear that the bill was "a non-starter" for his caucus members.

LeMahieu said he and his members objected to the bill's adoption of state-run dispensaries. "Why would we let government grow the size of government?" he asked.

Vos had said last month he was unwilling to budge from his proposed bill, and now here we are.

"We see that the Senate wants to have a more liberal version than the one that we’re willing to pass," Vos said Thursday. He said he had the votes to pass the measure in the House but would not bring it up with no path to advance in the Senate.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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