Two Indiana bills have been introduced to legalize medical marijuana in the state, effectively blocking the federal prohibition on the same.
House Bill 1487 (HB1487) was introduced by State Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie) while Senate Bill 284 (SB284) was introduced by State Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage). These bills would permit qualifying patients to use medical cannabis under certain circumstances, while providing immunity for physicians who recommend its use to patients.
HB1487 sets up a state regulatory regime that would allow medical marijuana to make its way into the hands of the sick, something that federal law says is illegal. The state department of health would adopt rules by July 1, 2016, concerning the use, distribution, cultivation, production, and testing of medical marijuana.
Qualifying conditions under HB1487 include:
Cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, nail-patella, multiple sclerosis, injury or disease to the spinal cord/spinal column/vertebra, myelomalacia, celiac disease, sickle cell anemia, a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition, or the treatment for a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that produces:cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe or chronic nausea, seizures, including seizures that are characteristic, epilepsy, severe or persistent muscle spasms or any other disease, condition, or symptom that the state department to be a debilitating medical condition.
The bill also protects the livelihood of physicians willing to prescribe medical marijuana to their patients by stating that “a physician is immune from civil and criminal liability for advising a qualifying patient about the risks and benefits of the medical use of cannabis or providing a qualifying patient with a written recommendation based upon a full assessment of the qualifying patient’s medical history and condition.
However, HB1487 also states this immunity does not apply to a physician who commits “gross negligence or engages in willful or wanton misconduct.”
Under SB284, fees for medical marijuana cards needed to access the substance lawfully are not to exceed $100. Once accepted into the program, patients can possess up to eight ounces of marijuana and cultivate up to 12 plants for personal consumption. In addition, patients can designate an individual as their caregiver who would then be authorized to possess up to eight ounces and cultivate up to 12 plants of marijuana on their behalf.
Qualifying conditions under SB284 are similar to those listed under HB1487 and include AIDS, HIV, anorexia, arthritis, cachexia, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, migraine headaches, persistent muscle spasms, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, seizures, severe nausea and post traumatic stress disorder. The Department of Marijuana Enforcement (DOME), established by the bill, would be able classify new illnesses and disorders as treatable by medical marijuana per their discretion.
In addition, patients would qualify for medical marijuana under SB284 if they suffered from “any persistent or chronic illness or condition that, in the opinion of a physician, substantially limits the ability of a person to conduct one or more major life activities; or may cause serious harm to the patient’s safety or mental or physical health if not alleviated; if the illness or condition may be improved by the use of marijuana.”
Although these bills draw a legal distinction between recreational and medical marijuana, they still represent enormous steps in the right direction for cannabis rights advocates in the state of Pennsylvania. The top-down federal mandates that have failed for so many decades are being replaced with a more decentralized, compassionate approach that is responsive to the needs of the people.
Activists should embrace any opportunity that they have to make it more difficult for people to be locked in cages for the non-violent non-crime of marijuana possession. The end of the federal drug war is on its way whether detractors like it or not. Measures like HB1487 and SB284 can help grease the wheels on our way toward that inevitable goal!
HB1487 has been referred to the House Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee. SB284 has been referred to the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee. The bills must pass through their committee assignments successfully before they can receive full votes in their respective chambers.
HOW TO SUPPORT THIS BILL
If you live in the state of Indiana, contact your state legislators immediately. It is important for you to politely urge them to support and co-sponsor HB1487 and SB284. That is how you can make a difference in the fight against cannabis prohibition.
If you live in different state, contact your state legislators and urge them to introduce a supporting bill to HB1487 and SB284 such as our P.E.A.C.E (Preventing Excessive Allocations for Cannabis Enforcement) Act.