DCFS And Illinois Courts Refusing To Follow New Cannabis Anti-Discrimination Law: Parents Risk Losing Children Over Cannabis Use Despite Legalization

By Jay Lindsay, CROSSROAD LEGAL

ILLINOIS: On June 25, 2019, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into a law sweeping new legislation legalizing personal recreational use of Cannabis in Illinois. Under the law, Illinoisans can now use cannabis not only for medicinal purposes, but also recreationally. The law also prohibits discrimination based on cannabis in certain situations. Specifically, the anti-discrimination provision is strategically drafted to avoid cannabis users from suffering negative or adverse impacts in Illinois family and juvenile courts, including actions by Child Protective Services. Despite passage of this law, DCFS and courts remain unwilling to comply with these anti-discrimination rules.

To fully understand why this is important and how it affects Illinois parents, a little background is necessary.

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act of 2019

Effective the first day of 2020, Cannabis became legal for personal use in Illinois. The new law is entitled the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, and the personal use provisions are found in the Illinois Code at 410 ILCS 705/10-5 et seq. Under the new law, Illinois residents are legally permitted to use and possess Cannabis and Cannabis-related products. There are, of course, limitations.

POSSESSION OF CANNABIS

  • Up to 30 grams of Cannabis in raw form
  • Cannabis-infused product or products containing no more than 500 mg of THC
  • Five grams of cannabis product in concentrated form 

PRIOR INCARCERATIONS

Under House Bill 1438, which ultimately became the new law last year, the Governor has created a clemency process that will ultimately help to exonerate and clear the records of hundreds of thousands of people convicted of minor Cannabis charges. 

  • Automatic expungement for any possession charge of up to 30 grams
  • Potential clemency for possession of 30-500 grams, but only upon petitioning a court to vacate the conviction.

The Marijuana Policy Project estimates that this will result in an estimated 770,000 overturned convictions. This is perhaps the most notable part of the legislation, because it could effectively re-enfranchise almost a million Illinois residents of things like voting and gun rights. Under current law, drug-related convictions can be used as a reason for the Illinois State Police revoking or denying a Firearm Owners Identification Card (FOID).  Likewise, for felony convictions, many people lose the right to vote. Many of these rights are now likely subject to restoration.

Public Support for Cannabis

Before directly addressing the issue of discrimination, it is worth noting that the majority of Illinoisans support legalization. Even in the most rural and conservative reaches of the state, Cannabis is gaining wide-spread acceptance. According to the advocacy group, Legalize Illinois, the following statistics were reported in relation to resident approval of legalization:

  • Chicago: 77% support and 22% oppose legalization
  • Downstate: 58% support and 40% oppose legalization
  • Statewide: 66% support and 32% oppose legalization

Anti-Discrimination Provision

Now that the background and legislative underpinnings are clear, we turn to the problem at hand.  Under the new law, there’s a specific provision that directly applies to family courts and actions by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The provision found at 410 ILCS 705/10-30(a) outlines the precise ways that the government may not use a person’s conduct under the statute. Below, the statute is broken into three parts for clarity:

Neither the presence of cannabinoid components or metabolites in a person’s bodily fluids nor possession of cannabis-related paraphernalia, nor conduct related to the use of cannabis or the participation in cannabis-related activities lawful under this Act by a custodial or noncustodial parent, grandparent, legal guardian, foster parent, or other person charged with the well-being of a child . . .

. . . shall form the sole or primary basis or supporting basis for any action or proceeding by a child welfare agency or in a family or juvenile court, any adverse finding, adverse evidence, or restriction of any right or privilege in a proceeding related to adoption of a child, acting as a foster parent of a child, or a person’s fitness to adopt a child or act as a foster parent of a child, or serve as the basis of any adverse finding, adverse evidence, or restriction of any right of privilege in a proceeding related to guardianship, conservatorship, trusteeship, the execution of a will, or the management of an estate . . .

. . . unless the person’s actions in relation to cannabis created an unreasonable danger to the safety of the minor or otherwise show the person to not be competent as established by clear and convincing evidence. This subsection applies only to conduct protected under this Act. 

Juvenile Court Act vs. Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act

In a landmark Supreme Court decision, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote, that there is “a fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.” See Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000).

Moreover, the Court wrote, “[t]he liberty interest at issue in this case-the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children-is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court. See id. at 65. 

It is with this context from the Supreme Court that we next must address how Illinois law treats removal of children for abuse and neglect allegations.

Under the Illinois Juvenile Court Act of 1987, DCFS is charged with protecting minors from abuse and neglect. When there is a credible report of abuse, DCFS will investigate the allegations and, if founded, may remove a child from their home, place them into emergency protective custody, then turn the matter over to the local States Attorney for the appropriate county. At this time, the prosecutor will file a petition to adjudicate the minor a ward of the court. If successful, the child will be placed into foster care, while a provider agency, such as Caritas or Lutheran Child and Family Services (LCFS), will take over managing the casework associated with the matter. A service plan is created, and parents must complete the service plan and meet all requirements of the agency before the children can be returned.

Under the Juvenile Court Act, 705 ILCS 405/2-18(2)(f), the court deciding the matter at the adjudicatory hearing may consider:

proof that a parent, custodian or guardian of a minor repeatedly used a drug, to the extent that it has or would ordinarily have the effect of producing in the user a substantial state of stupor, unconsciousness, intoxication, hallucination, disorientation or incompetence, or a substantial impairment of judgment, or a substantial manifestation of irrationality, shall be prima facie evidence of neglect.

Under the Juvenile Court Act drug is not a per se or automatic reason for removal of children. Drug use must create a “substantial” effect on the parent, to the point that the Department feels that the parent cannot properly care for a child. In practice, this is very different, however. Typically, ANY use will be enough for DCFS to remove a child. Historically, this included Cannabis. 

Breaking it Down

Since there are now two potentially conflicting laws, Courts are left to decide whether or not they will follow the new anti-discrimination provision by simply disregarding evidence of Cannabis use, or whether they will continue to view Cannabis as a drug that supports removal of minor children.

Case Examples from Practice

 The author is a former Assistant Public Defender for a rural county in downstate Illinois. In the first year since legalization, numerous cases have come before the court with little evidence of drug use except minor Cannabis possession or positive THC test results. Consider the following* examples:

  • Young mother has argument with boyfriend, and children are removed due to allegations of domestic violence. After 6 months, all services are complete. There was no evidence of illegal drug use, alcohol abuse or other substance-related issues. While under oath, a case worker testified that the sole reason why the children have not yet been returned to the mother from May 2020 to November 2020 is her positive drug tests for THC. At a hearing, one child was returned to a father, in part due to the fact that mother was alleged to have continued using Cannabis.

Rationale – According to DCFS, the mother had a service plan that required her to remain free from all drugs, including Cannabis; therefore, it is the State’s position that even though Cannabis is legal, she is prohibited from using it.

  • Judge orders young mother to receive overnight visits and have children returned within 30 days, due to minimal nature of the case. DCFS refuses to honor the court’s order, based on allegations that the mother is still using Cannabis. A single positive test for THC from several months earlier used to argue that she is unfit to have the children go home. The court allowed the matter to be continued for another 90 days and decided not to return the child.

Rationale – According to DCFS, there were concerns about the mother using Cannabis, because she is underage (18) at the time, and thus use would be considered illegal.

  • Young mother has a messy home and is accused of being under the influence while caring for her small child. Notably, under oath, the police officer repeatedly referred to discovering evidence of illicit drug use in the home. On closer cross-examination, it turned out the mother had an empty vape pen on her nightstand. No Cannabis was located on the property. The mother did admit to using Cannabis at times, but no evidence was provided to indicate she had used Cannabis that day or that she was in possession of Cannabis. While other reasons were used for removing the children, such as the condition of the home, this was a critical piece of evidence heard by and relied upon by the court.

Rationale – According to DCFS, simply having marijuana paraphernalia in reach of a minor child was sufficient to remove the children, as it indicated a drug addiction.

Facing the Dilemma Head-On

With these examples squarely before us, it’s important to note a few things. First, possession of 10 grams or less of Cannabis by a person under the age of 21 is considered a civil violation, punishable by a fine of between $100 and $200. See 720 ILCS 55/4. In fact, possession doesn’t even reach Class A misdemeanor status (comparable to a first-offense DUI) until a minor possesses between 30 and 100 grams of Cannabis. With this in mind, it’s difficult to understand how DCFS and the courts can deprive a parent of such a fundamental liberty as the right to raise one’s own child over such a minor offense. Likewise, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act clearly outlines that Cannabis use should not be considered in these court proceedings. The law makes no exception for age of the user.

Where We Go Next 

Ultimately, the problem is that although Cannabis has been fully legalized for recreational use, judges and DCFS are still very much using Cannabis as the sole reason (or at a minimum, a substantial reason) for removing children from parents. And once removed from their parents, children are often kept in foster care for years. If the parent tests positive for Cannabis even once, the courts and DCFS will invariably argue that the parent is failing to make reasonable efforts and substantial progress toward the return of the child. This key language is used to eventually terminate parental rights for good.

It is imperative that the fundamental liberties of parents in Illinois be protected at all costs. As Justice O’Connor wrote in 2000, the right to raise one’s own children is perhaps the oldest recognized liberty in our country’s history. Indeed, this fundamental right is being breached every day in courtrooms across the state, because the clear text of the law is being ignored. Despite Illinois passing a law that prohibits consideration of Cannabis use or possession in DCFS proceedings and juvenile court hearings, state agencies and judges remain completely unwilling to disregard it. In doing so, one could certainly argue that the courts are re-criminalizing Cannabis. In fact, the outcome is that one can lose their children forever for something that amounts to little more than a civil fine if done underage. Imagine losing your children for burning without a permit or littering.

It’s high time that the Illinois legislature put some teeth in the law by creating some form of penalty for state agencies that disregard the law. It also raises the possibility that some parents may have significant civil actions against the State of Illinois where DCFS and provider agencies disregard the law and remove children due to Cannabis use in the home. Illinois NORML continues to advocate and fight hard for the residents of the state every day.

*Due to confidentiality of juvenile court records, the author is unable to discuss specific cases or names of participants.


Jaye R. Lindsay is the founding attorney for CROSSROAD LEGAL, a general practice law firm based in O’Fallon, IL.

Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, And South Dakota Legalize Marijuana

Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota Legalize Marijuana 

Voters in Mississippi and South Dakota Approve Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiatives

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota have legalized marijuana for adults 21 and older, as voters in each state approved their respective ballot initiatives at the ballot box. South Dakota also passed a medical marijuana initiative and became the first state in American history to enact both policies on the same day. The Marijuana Policy Project was instrumental in the Montana and South Dakota campaigns.

“This historic set of victories will place even greater pressure on Congress to address the glaring and untenable conflicts between state and federal laws when it comes to cannabis legalization,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which was founded in 1995 and has played a central role in 10 state-level legalization victories over the past eight years.

“From the Badlands to the Jersey Shore, and from the Grand Canyon to Big Sky Country, Americans across the country have embraced the idea that marijuana legalization is the policy decision that best serves the interests of public health, public safety, and, most importantly, justice,” said Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project and one of the leaders of the Montana and South Dakota campaigns.

  • Arizona passed its ballot initiative, Proposition 207.
  • New Jersey passed its legislatively referred initiative, Public Question 1.
  • Montana passed complementary initiatives, Constitutional Initiative 118 and Initiative 190.
  • South Dakota passed its legalization initiative, Amendment A, and its medical marijuana initiative, Measure 26.
  • Mississippi passed its medical marijuana initiative, Amendment 65.

“With the passage of these initiatives, one-third of the population now lives in jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis for adult use, and 70% of all states have embraced cannabis for medical use. The federal government is out of step with a clear national trend toward legalization,” said Hawkins. “We can put an end to the social injustices and other harms that result from the criminalization of marijuana. While cannabis legalization is not the cure-all to end the war on drugs, it is a necessary step and would provide an opportunity for many long-oppressed communities to finally have a chance to heal.”

“Regardless of who controls the White House, the House, and the Senate, we should demand landmark federal marijuana reform in 2021,” added Hawkins. “This is not a partisan issue. And with more Republican Senators representing states with medical marijuana and legal marijuana for adults, we’re hopeful that marijuana reform can serve as an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation. It’s also worth noting that the victory in New Jersey has the potential to accelerate reform efforts in neighboring states.”

Heading into Election Day, 11 states had legalized marijuana for adults 21 and over, and 34 states had legalized medical marijuana. Now, there are 15 legalization states and 36 medical marijuana states in the country.

U.S. House Of Representatives Approves Cannabis Banking Reform In Larger COVID-19 Relief Package

Lawmakers voted 208-199 (23 not voting) in favor of coronavirus “HEROES” relief package

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: On Friday evening (5/15/20) lawmakers in the United States House of Representatives passed additional coronavirus relief legislation to provide continued economic and government support to the country. The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act includes the language of the SAFE Banking Act, which would prevent federal financial regulators from punishing financial institutions that provide services to state-legal cannabis businesses.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, cannabis businesses across the country have been deemed essential and continue to operate. However, many of these businesses still lack access to the same financial services that are granted to every other industry in the United States. Because it is possible that coronavirus can be transmitted on currency — placing private industry and government workers at risk when handling large amounts of cash — allowing the cannabis industry to access banking services is now more crucial than ever. This policy change would also ensure that small and minority-owned businesses can access the financial assistance designed for them in many state programs.

The HEROES Act, which includes provisions to allow banks and financial institutions to provide services to the cannabis industry without fear of criminal prosecution, will now head to the Senate for consideration. In September 2019, the House of Representatives voted in favor of the SAFE Banking Act, but the legislation has since stalled in the Senate.

Statement from Steve Hawkins, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project:
“I’m encouraged that the House recognizes the urgency of this issue and has taken this strong and necessary position. We thank Chairwoman Maxine Waters and Rep. Ed Perlmutter for their leadership on the issue.

“Continuing to exclude the cannabis industry from accessing basic and essential financial services during this time will result in more harm than good. Not only will it make the country’s economic recovery that much harder, but the provisions intended to help minority-owned businesses would continue to be absent within the industry.”

Statement from Don Murphy, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project:
“In light of the public health and public safety benefits of this specific change in policy, the Senate has good reason to pass this language into law. This is a change in policy that the banks are asking for even more than the cannabis companies. We urge the Senate Banking Committee to adopt the SAFE Banking provisions to ensure financial institutions can provide basic banking services to businesses that are compliant with state law.”

Read more

MPP Op-Ed: Our Neighbor to The North

On Wednesday, marijuana sales will begin nationwide in Canada, making it the second country in the world — following Uruguay — with a federally legal adult-use marijuana industry.  Each Canadian province has developed its own system for how marijuana will be sold to adults. This will include government stores, private retailers, online government sales with delivery, or a mix of those approaches.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., nine states have legalized marijuana for adults’ use (although sales are allowed in only eight of them) and 30 states have comprehensive medical marijuana laws. Two more adult-use states and two more medical states may come on board on Election Day. But all this progress exists under the cloud of federal illegality.

Businesses in the U.S. have to contend with a myriad of problems caused by federal prohibition. Even MPP — a nonprofit organization that works to end marijuana prohibition — was dumped by our bank (we now have a new one) and our retirement fund briefly planned to drop us. In addition to banking challenges, U.S. cannabis businesses typically can’t accept credit cards, products can’t ship to retailers in other states, and most alarmingly, there is still the possibility of federal prosecution.

In addition to overriding federal law context, here is a comparison between the Canadian adult-use program and common features of U.S. state legalization laws:

  • Age: In Canada, provinces set the drinking age at either 18 or 19. The age limit is mirrored for cannabis. Meanwhile, all legalization states have set the age at 21, mirroring U.S. alcohol laws.
  • Edibles: For the first year, no edibles will be allowed in Canada. Initially, reports indicate only flower will be available. In contrast, every adult-use legalization law in the U.S. allows edibles and a myriad of other products, albeit with regulations. (However in Oregon during a transitional period, existing medical businesses were initially allowed to sell flower only to adult-use consumers.)
  • Public consumption: Every U.S. state that legalized marijuana prohibits marijuana smoking in public, although some allow for on-site consumption at specific adults-only establishments. In Canada, some provinces will allow cannabis smoking in certain locations that are open to the general public, although most or all ban it in locations that appeal to children.
  • Possession limit: In Canada, adult will be allowed to possess just over an ounce of cannabis (30 grams) outside the home. Possession limits for outside the home in legalization states vary from one ounce to 2.5 ounces.
  • Home cultivation: Canada is allowing home cultivation of four plants. All of the adult-use states but Washington allow home cultivation, although in Nevada only those living at least 25 miles away from the nearest retailer may grow their own cannabis.
  • Government involvement: Due to federal illegality, thus far U.S. state government have not directly participated in selling, distributing, or growing adult-use marijuana (although two public universities in Louisiana are involved in marijuana cultivation, and Utah plans to dispense medical cannabis). In contrast, there will government distribution systems in Canada and government stores and deliveries in some provinces.
  • Import/export: At this time, Canadian law does not allow the import or export of cannabis, although it does allow hemp exports. In light of federal prohibition, all state marijuana laws are set up as intrastate programs — with retailers purchasing only from product manufacturers and growers in the same state.

Marijuana_Policy_Project_logo

The Marijuana Policy Project has been at the forefront of legalization among the states as well as decriminalization for possession of cannabis.  Our efforts have removed the threat of local prosecution for citizens in 21 states and the District of Columbia. But we cannot rest on yesterday. We have to continue to push today for a better tomorrow.  Last year, the NYPD was still arresting African American and Latino youth for marijuana possession at a rate 9 times greater than Caucasian youth.  Currently, we continue to house hundreds of thousands of people for cannabis possession, leading to devastating collateral consequences in their lives, such as job loss or denial of parental rights.

MPP plans to keep growing the number of U.S. states where marijuana is legal for adults. With sufficient funding, we believe we can more than double the number of adult-use states within just a few years. Meanwhile, we aren’t losing sight of the need to change federal law. It’s easy to get complacent when the DEA isn’t busting down cannabis business’ doors. But, recent comments from Colorado’s top federal prosecutor should remind us all that there is an urgent need to change federal law so that state-legal marijuana businesses are no longer a crime.  Most critically, we still have over a 500,000 marijuana-related arrests and convictions each year in the United States.  Canadian jails are used for a better purpose.  Visit www.mpp.orgto learn more and join our mission.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer Introduces Bill To End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced legislation Wednesday that would end the federal government’s prohibition of marijuana. The proposal is co-sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

The bill, titled the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, leaving its legal status to the states, while maintaining the federal government’s authority to prevent trafficking of marijuana from states that have legalized it to those that have not. It would also provide grants to state and local governments to develop or expand expungement or record-sealing programs for marijuana possession convictions, and it would direct marijuana tax money to the Small Business Administration to provide loans to marijuana businesses owned and controlled by women and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. The proposal also allocates funds to marijuana-related public health and safety research. The full bill is available here.

Matt Schweich, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project commented, “This proposal is yet another sign that Congress is moving toward a major shift in U.S. marijuana policy. Senate leaders from both parties have now signaled their support for ending prohibition at the federal level and adopting a system that respects state laws regulating marijuana for medical and adult use. The debate is transitioning from whether marijuana should be legalized to how it should be legalized. There are still hurdles to overcome in Congress, just as there are for any other issue, but things are clearly headed in the right direction. A strong and growing majority of Americans think it is time to end marijuana prohibition, and states are moving quickly to develop their own marijuana policies. Members of Congress do not want to find themselves on the wrong side of history — or their constituents.”

Connecticut House Appropriations Committee Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill

CONNECTICUT: The Joint Committee on Appropriations approved a bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana for adults in Connecticut on Thursday, potentially setting it up for floor consideration before the end of this year’s legislative session.

regulate marijuanaHB 5394, which was introduced by the committee, would task the commissioners of Mental Health and Addiction Services and Consumer Protection and Revenue Services with developing regulations for possession and retail sales of marijuana for adults 21 and older. More details will be added to the bill as it moves forward over the coming weeks.

“This committee vote reiterates what most Connecticut residents already know: it is time to make marijuana legal for adults,” said Becky Dansky, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “The discussions that have taken place in the legislature this year have provided more than enough information to effectively move forward with legalization. Connecticut should stop punishing adults for using a substance that is safer than alcohol, and it has an opportunity to regulate marijuana before it starts losing tax revenue to other states in the region that have already started this process.”

There are nine states that have made marijuana legal for adults, as well as the District of Columbia. Neighboring Massachusetts is in the process of implementing its regulated marijuana market, and in nearby New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has made legalizing and regulating marijuana a priority this year.

poll conducted by Sacred Heart University in October 2017 showed that 71% of Connecticut residents support regulating and taxing marijuana for adults.

 

Cannabis Policy Reform Advocates Release Report Card Grading Candidates for Governor in Maryland

MARYLAND: The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) released a voter guide Monday that grades Maryland gubernatorial candidates strictly on their positions and statements about cannabis policy. The report contains letter grades for each person running in Maryland’s Democratic Primary for governor in June and is based on answers to a questionnaire MPP sent to candidates, bill sponsorship, and their public statements regarding cannabis. The full report can be viewed here.

“There are real differences among the Democratic candidates when it comes to marijuana policy, from making a plan for legalizing marijuana a significant part of their campaign platform to declining to declare support for legalization at all,” said Kate Bell, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “In gubernatorial and other races across the nation, candidates are increasingly realizing that regulating marijuana is a winning issue. We hope that this guide will help inform the voters as they make their choice here in the June 26 democratic primary or in the general election.”

Sixty-four percent of likely Maryland voters support making cannabis legal for adults, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland Poll conducted in September 2016.

In February, state lawmakers introduced bills to regulate cannabis for adults. If approved by 60% of both chambers of the Maryland Legislature, the bill would place a constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot that would make possession and home cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis legal for adults 21 years of age and older and require the state to establish regulations and taxation for a legal cannabis market, as well as to ensure diversity in the cannabis industry. The bill to refer the issue to the voters could not be vetoed by the governor.

Nine states and the District of Columbia have made cannabis possession legal for adults, and eight of those states regulate and tax cannabis similarly to alcohol. Bills to make cannabis legal have been introduced in 20 states this year, including Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Michigan voters will likely be able to support a similar initiative on the November 2018 ballot.

 

FBI Reports More Than 653,000 Arrests For Marijuana Offenses In 2016

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  An estimated 653,249 arrests were made nationwide for marijuana in 2016, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Crime In the United States (CIUS) report. This means one person was arrested for marijuana approximately every 48 seconds on average in the United States.

The full report is available here:  (Note: Marijuana-specific data was not published online but is available upon request.)

“Arresting and citing over half a million people a year for a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol is a travesty,” said Morgan Fox, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Despite a steady shift in public opinion away from marijuana prohibition, and the growing number of states that are regulating marijuana like alcohol, marijuana consumers continue to be treated like criminals throughout the country. This is a shameful waste of resources and can create lifelong consequences for the people arrested.”

There are currently eight states that regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol for adults, four of which voted to do so in November 2016. Marijuana possession is also legal for adults in the District of Columbia. Twenty-three states and D.C. considered legislation in 2017 to regulate marijuana, including in Vermont where the legislature approved such a measure before the governor vetoed it.

“Regulating marijuana for adults creates jobs, generates tax revenue, protects consumers, and takes money away from criminals,” Fox continued. “It is time for the federal government and the rest of the states to stop ruining peoples’ lives and enact sensible marijuana policies.”

Tennessee Organizes Medical Marijuana Committee

TENNESSEE: House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally formed a committee to study the potential impacts of legalizing medical marijuana in Tennessee.

The committee will be chaired by Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, and Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, who has been a staunch advocate for medical marijuana in the Volunteer State.

Speaker Harwell has recently said she is “open” to considering a law allowing medical marijuana in Tennessee and has launched a House task force to fight the state’s ongoing opioid crisis.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that states with medical marijuana laws are associated with a significant reduction in mortality from opioid abuse; these states saw a 25% reduction in opioid overdose deaths, compared to states without such laws.

NY Department Of Health Proposes Regulations That Would Expand Medical Marijuana Program

NEW YORK: The Department of Health just announced the issuance of new proposed regulations that would make changes to the state’s medical marijuana program to improve access. Among other things, they would reduce some of the onerous security requirements for registered organizations, shorten the length of the medical marijuana course certifying practitioners must take from four hours to two, and allow additional types of medical marijuana products to be sold.

New York’s medical marijuana program has been criticized by the Marijuana Policy Project and patient advocates as unnecessarily restrictive, and initial patient registration numbers were very low compared to other state medical marijuana programs. The Department of Health has made several changes to the program since it issued a report in August 2016, including adding chronic pain as a qualifying condition and allowing registered nurses and physician’s assistants to recommended medical marijuana.

The proposed regulatory changes can be viewed here.

Lawmakers have also been working to improve the medical marijuana program this session. In June, the Legislature passed a bill to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition. Gov. Andrew Cuomo must still sign the bill in order for it to become law.