Senate Approves VA Medical Marijuana Changes

VA Medical Marijuana Changes

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CRN) – The US Senate has approved an appropriations bill 89-8 that includes a provision to allow Veterans Administration doctors to recommend medical marijuana in the states that have approved it. The Senate’s action follows yesterday’s vote by the House approving the Blumenauer Amendment to remove the gag order on VA doctors when it comes to medical marijuana recommendations. However, the spending bill risks a veto from President Obama, who has said it would reject it if it came with “ideological riders”. The bill also contains funding for fighting the Zika virus, relaxed rules for commercial drivers covered by the Department of Transportation, and restriction on how the administration can deal with the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) — The Rhode Island Senate has passed a bill that would approve the use of marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. The legislation passed by a 36-0 vote on Thursday. Sen. Stephen Archambault, a Smithfield Democrat, introduced the bill that would make PTSD another one of the debilitating medical conditions that qualify an adult patient to use medical marijuana. Several states have passed or are considering similar measures aimed at helping military veterans struggling to manage anxiety, insomnia and other ailments. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t allow doctors to prescribe marijuana, citing the lack of research about whether it’s effective in treating PTSD. The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives.

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan (CRN) – Another Appeals Court ruling in Michigan has affirmed that medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal under state law. Under the ruling, it appears that the only way that medical marijuana patients can get their weed is by either growing it themselves or getting it from an approved caregiver who can serve no more than five patients. The case involved two West Michigan men who operated a dispensary, who say they will take their case to the Michigan Supreme Court.

TORONTO, Canada (CRN) – Landlords of medical marijuana dispensaries in Toronto are being given three days to shut down or face stiff fines. There are at least 75 dispensaries operating in Toronto and as of Wednesday, police had delivered warnings to 20 of them. Some dispensary owners are disputing the city’s authority to have them shuttered, noting that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should protect them for their delivery of cannabis to medical users.

SEATTLE, Washington (AP) — A former Seattle IRS agent convicted of taking a $20,000 pot bribe from a medical marijuana dispensary owner has been sentenced to 2½ years in prison. Federal prosecutors said that after Paul G. Hurley audited Have A Heart Compassion Care in Seattle last year, he told its owner, Ryan Kunkel, that he had saved him $1 million — and then rubbed his fingers together. Kunkel agreed to pay him $20,000, but then went to authorities, who arrested the agent in a sting operation last September. In February, a jury convicted Hurley of receiving a bribe. U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour sentenced him on Friday. The U.S. Attorney’s Office sought a seven-year prison term. In a sentencing memo prosecutors called Hurley’s actions “an affront to the United States, the IRS, and all law-abiding tax payers.” Hurley’s attorneys sought a one-year term.

HELENA, Montana (AP) — A Montana State Prison guard has been accused smuggling methamphetamine and marijuana into the prison in exchange for cash. A federal grand jury indicted Martin Reap on conspiracy, drug possession, drug distribution and bribery charges earlier this month. The case against him was unsealed on Thursday. The indictment alleges that Reap conspired with unnamed inmates to smuggle the drugs into the Deer Lodge prison for distribution to other inmates between February 2015 and last month. In return, Reap allegedly received more than $5,000 from others who participated in the drug-smuggling conspiracy.

ORLANDO, Florida (CRN) – Opponents of Florida’s Amendment 2, the ballot measure for medical marijuana legalization, have released an attack ad that Politi-Fact has rated as “Half True”. In the ad, No on Amendment 2 forces claim that the initiative will create “almost 2,000 pot shops in Florida … more pot shops than Walmart and Walgreens combined,” and imply that the Florida medical marijuana program would end up like California’s loosely regulated system. The estimate comes from the analysis provided by the Department of Health in 2015. They estimate Florida would have over 440,000 qualifying patients and 1,993 dispensaries. While that’s far more than the Walmarts and Walgreens in Florida combined, the estimate is highly exaggerated.