“The Strain” marijuana dispensary in Chatsworth shows its products. California does a good job of letting medical marijuana patients get their treatment of choice, but some elements of the state’s marijuana laws still fail to protect people with legitimate ailments, according to a report released Thursday. Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG
By Brooke Staggs, email@example.com JournoBrooke on Twitter
Posted: 03/10/17 – 6:01 PM PST |
California does a good job of letting medical marijuana patients get their treatment of choice, but some elements of the state’s marijuana laws still fail to protect people with legitimate ailments, according to a report released Thursday by a patient advocacy group.
Americans for Safe Access said California is one of three states to receive a B+ grade — the highest issued by the group — and commended the Golden State for having an abundant supply of cannabis, reasonable taxes, the right to home cultivation and few limits on medical conditions that qualify for treatment.
“The really good news in California is that if you’re medical cannabis patient, you can almost surely get access to your medicine,” said Don Duncan, California director of the Washington, D.C.-based organization.
But the report also states California has a ways to go when it comes to protecting civil rights for medical marijuana patients and improving consumer safety.
“We still have some unfinished work to do,” Duncan noted.
No state has ever earned an A in the three years that Americans for Safe Access has issued its annual report, according to Steph Sherer, the group’s founder and executive director. But overall, she said access in the United States is the best it’s ever been, with five more states legalizing medical marijuana and many more taking steps to boost access in 2016.
“What was really exciting was that 23 states took our recommendations from last year and improved their laws,” Sherer said.
That included California, which was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996.
Though the state didn’t pass any new medical marijuana legislation in 2016, Americans for Safe Access and others lobbied to get new protections for patients included in Proposition 64, the recreational marijuana measure approved by voters in November. That included a stipulation that Child Protective Services can no longer restrict parental rights based solely on the fact that someone is a medical marijuana patient.
Those protections helped California earn a 10-point improvement in the organization’s annual ranking, giving it that B+ score along with Michigan and Illinois.
Americans for Safe Access always gives states the benefit of the doubt that when they pass new legislation they will actually implement those policies, Sherer said. So California’s high score is based on the assumption that it will carry out protections both in Proposition 64 and in a trio of bills passed in 2015, known as the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act.
The big test will come this year, with a Jan. 1, 2018, deadline for California to roll out its new marijuana licensing and regulatory scheme.
“What’s key is just going to be getting the medical cannabis program implemented and getting the state licenses out,” Sherer said.
If it doesn’t, she said the state’s score could potentially drop significantly next year.
California’s 2016 grade was unchanged from 2015. But the vast majority of other states improved their scores.
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