November 7, 2018

Midterm Marijuana Updates

The midterm elections saw many proposed marijuana amendments on the ballot, both recreational and medical.

Michigan voters approved Proposal 1, which legalizes the recreational use and possession of marijuana for persons 21 or older, allowing individuals to keep 10 ounces or less of marijuana in their residencies, so long as quantities over 2.5 ounces are secured in locked containers. Furthermore, the proposal requires the creation of a state licensing system for marijuana businesses, allowing municipalities to ban or restrict them, while also changing several current crime violations to civil infractions.

A similar measure failed in North Dakota where voters rejected Measure 3.

Missouri Amendment 2 creates a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana for medical purposes while also implementing a four percent sales tax on the substance. State-licensed physicians can now recommend marijuana to patients for the following qualifying conditions:

  • Cancer
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Intractable migraines
  • Chronic medical conditions that cause severe pain or persistent muscle spasms (including but not limited to multiple sclerosis, seizures, Parkinson’s disease and Tourette’s)
  • Debilitating psychiatric disorders, including but not limited to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), if diagnosed by a state-licensed psychiatrist
  • Chronic medical conditions that are normally treated with a prescription medication that could lead to physical or psychological dependence, when a physician determines that medical use of marijuana would be effective and safer
  • Any terminal illness

The law also allows physicians to use their professional judgement to recommend marijuana for any other chronic, debilitating or other medical condition, including but not limited to hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, Huntington’s disease, autism, neuropathies, sickle cell anemia, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, cachexia, and wasting syndrome.

Patients will be allowed to grow six flowering plants in their homes and purchase four ounces of dried marijuana or the equivalent.

Utah Proposition 2 was also passed, enacting the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, which legalizes medical marijuana and includes comprehensive regulations on how cannabis must be handled by the various stakeholders in the marijuana industry, including instructions for dispensaries, growers, sellers, transportation, labeling, testing, laboratory research, and much more.

In terms of qualifying conditions, the amendment allows doctors to recommend marijuana for:

  • HIV/AIDs or an autoimmune disorder
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Cancer, cachexia, or a condition manifested by physical wasting, nausea or malnutrition associated with chronic disease
  • Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or a similar gastrointestinal disorder
  • Epilepsy or a similar condition that causes debilitating seizures
  • Multiple sclerosis, or a similar condition that causes persistent and debilitating muscle spasms
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Autism
  • A rare condition or disease that affects less than 200,000 people in the U.S. as defined by the FDA
  • Chronic or debilitating pain in an individual if a physician determines that the individual is at risk of becoming dependent on, or overdosing on, opiate-based pain medication, or if the patient is allergic to or unable to use opiates

Public opinion over the last few years has increasingly favored the loosening of marijuana restrictions across the country, and legalization on both medical and recreational fronts continues to spread. Specific to workers compensation, a handful of states to-date have required workers’ comp carriers to reimburse medical marijuana when clinically necessary. New Jersey introduced a bill in September that would require reimbursement, while New York recently introduced a bill that would allow insurers to reimburse medical marijuana. The New York bill requires public health plans to provide coverage for medical marijuana, while private health plans would be given the right to cover the drug but would not be legally required to cover it.

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