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Medical cannabis now completely illegal in just one state: Idaho

medical marijuanaWith Oklahoma’s passage of a medical marijuana law, advocacy organizations say there is now only one state in the entire union without some sort of legal provision for medicinal use of either herbal cannabis or cannabinoid extracts: Idaho. And with a governor's race this year, there may be hope even there. One by one, even the most culturally conservative states are succumbing to the demands of patients and the findings of science to pass laws to allow use of (at least) extracts containing cannabinoids, or (at most) actual herbaceous marijuana, for either medical or "recreational" purposes.

The most recent domino to fall was Oklahoma. On June 26, voters in the Sooner State approved Question No. 788 by some 57%—legalizing the use, sale and cultivation of medical marijuana. Patients with a special license from a physician will be able to possess up to eight ounces, and grow up to 12 plants. While these limits are stricter than in many medical marijuana states, the law is more liberal than most in one important respect: it lists no specific ailments, but leaves whether to recommend cannabis entirely up to the patient's doctor.

The National Conference of State Legislatures counts 31 states with full medical marijuana laws (joined by the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico), and another 15 allowing use of CBD products.

Additionally, Kansas and South Dakota have recently reclassified CBD under state law, distinguishing it from marijuana and effectively making it an unregulated substance—although the South Dakota law, passed in March 2017, makes sales contingent on approval by the federal Food & Drug Administration, so for the moment it changes little. The Kansas law, passed in April, followed an outcry over a local police raid on an alternative medicine shop in the town of Mission last year, in which CBD products were seized. The products are now back on the shelf.

That leaves only Nebraska and Idaho.

Nebraska may be in something of a gray area. Last September, the state Attorney General's office issued a statement insisting that CBD remains illegal in the state. But CBD products apparently remain available at more than one Omaha outlet. And in 2015, the state legislature in Lincoln passed a law that allowed for a CBD pilot program, whereby the University of Nebraska and the Nebraska Medicine health network are allowed to grow hemp for CBD, make low-THC oil, and administer it to patients suffering from seizures.

California famously led the way with passage of Prop 215 in 1996. The states that have followed since then have widely varying degrees of tolerance. The 2014 New York and Minnesota laws allow for medical use of cannabis extracts, but not herbaceous cannabis. The same is true of many of the subsequent state measures. Additionally, Utah in 2014 passed a limited CBD-specific law, shortly followed by Wisconsin, Wyoming, Virginia and others. Texas and Florida allow low-THC CBD-heavy strains of herbaceous cannabis, but bar actually smoking it, allowing only vaporization.

The wave of CBD-specific laws was sparked by the celebrated case of Colorado girl Charlotte Figi, whose successful treatment with CBD oil won national interest. The low-THC strain Charlotte's Web was named in her honor.

And of course since 2012, nine states have legalized outright: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada and (most recently) Vermont.

The GOP's own private Idaho? Maybe not for long...
The Marijuana Policy Project writes that Idaho "is the only remaining state whose law does not acknowledge medical cannabis in any way."

One major opponent there has been Gov. Butch Otter. In 2015, the Idaho Legislature approved S1146, an extremely limited bill that would have protected some seriously ill patients from being convicted for possession of CBD extracts. Otter vetoed it. A second such effort in the state house this year, HB 577, was squelched by a Otter's supporters in the Senate following a closed-door discussion—sparking a controversy about possible violation of the state's open meetings rule. Under current state law, possession of up to an ounce carries a penalty of one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

Otter, a Republican, is not running for re-election. The Republican candidate, Brad Little, has an identically intolerant stance. But Democratic primary winner Paulette Jordan does support legalizing and regulating cannabis. And she may have a chance—polls are predicting a tight race.


Cross-post to Cannabis Now

Graphic: Herbal Remedies

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