Puerto Rico governor approves medical marijuana


Another U.S. territory will allow medical marijuana for patients. Puerto Rican Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla signed an executive order this week that authorizes marijuana for certain medical uses under the control of the health department.

The move comes in response to a medical marijuana bill introduced in the Puerto Rico legislature in 2013 that has been bogged down ever since. The territory has no ballot initiative process, so the governor decided to act on his own. The health secretary now has three months to produce a report for how the territory will regulate it. It joins 23 U.S. states, the District of Colombia and Guam that allow medical marijuana.

The announcement came just a couple of days after the U.S. House of Representatives defeated an amendment offered by Rep. Earl Blumenauer that would have allowed Veterans Affairs doctors to discuss medical marijuana as a treatment for symptoms of post-traumatic stress in states where it is legal.

This one was kind of a no-brainer. The Equal Access amendment to the 2016 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill would have given veterans the same access to medical marijuana as any other citizen in states where it is allowed. And it came within a week of a CNN Weeds special that showed physicians seeking to do research after dealing with vets self-medicating with cannabis because their prescribed drugs, in the words of one doctor, “were turning them into zombies.”

None of that persuaded Rep. John Fleming, a physician as well as a congressman. When asked why he voted against the bill, he said, “So, why in the world would we give a drug that is addictive, that is prohibited as a Schedule One, that is not accepted for any medical disease or disorder, and enhances psychosis and schizophrenia?” 

So much for looking at both sides of an issue. But this is the same fellow, by the way, who last year told the Family Research Council that marijuana is a gateway drug.

“We have proven that scientifically,” he said. “To think that today’s meth user was not yesterday’s marijuana user is actually just a flight of fantasy.”

Don’t miss this short clip of Rep. Blumenauer looking his colleagues in the eye and bluntly telling them to stop promulgating lies like that, reminding them that veterans are being treated like secondclass citizens, prescribed legal opiates that often worsen their conditions, which forces many into the black market for medicine: http://bit.ly/1bZ6hpG 

Lawmakers with no interest in looking beyond their own noses continue to influence the debate. In Alabama, the Medical Marijuana Patient Safe Access Act recently passed out of the state senate’s Judiciary Committee by a unanimous vote. It would have approved 25 qualifying medical conditions and allowed patients to apply for a license to cultivate their own plants or purchase cannabis from state-regulated dispensaries under the Department of Agriculture.

Senator Jabo Waggoner, who oversees the Rules Committee, killed all discussion of the bill and dismissed it with a shrug, saying simply that Alabama doesn’t need it. And, of course, he knows best. Waggoner has been in the state legislature as a representative or senator since 1966 (that’s no typo), which means he probably still believes Richard Nixon was right about marijuana.

Even worse is the recent case in Kansas where a Garden City woman had her son taken away after he spoke up about the benefits of medical marijuana during a grade-school class discussion. Though it is illegal in Kansas, the latest senate bills having been voted down in February, massage therapist Shona Banda has been using medical marijuana for five years to stave off symptoms of Crohn’s Disease. School officials contacted police, which searched her home and found cannabis and oil.

But instead of arresting her for possession, they took the boy into state custody, where he remains while prosecutors decide whether charges will be filed against Banda. The case is drawing international attention and support for her. After viewing a video Banda took with her phone when she found police on her property, even Glenn Beck said the officers violated Banda’s constitutional rights and is now considering calling for legalization.

There is a bright spot in all this. Fools like Fleming and Waggoner are moving further to the minority side in these debates. Last year a similar bill in the U.S. House went down 225-195. The vote this time was 213-210, including 35 Republicans.

You can hear Leland discuss his most recent column and Colorado cannabis issues each Thursday morning on KGNU. http://news.kgnu.org/weed