#426 Virginia Lawmaker Proposes Medical Marijuana Bill

Date: Fri, 22 Jan 2010 08:35:15 -0800
Subject: #426 Virginia Lawmaker Proposes Medical Marijuana Bill

VIRGINIA LAWMAKER PROPOSES MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL

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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #426 – Thursday, 21 January 2010

Virginia’s 79-year-old Republican State Senator, delegate Harvey B. Morgan
proposed legislation earlier this week to make cannabis available
medically, and also to reduce penalties for marijuana possession for adults
in the conservative southern state. Virginia’s penalties for marijuana are
currently some of the harshest in the nation.

The AP report, below, is just one of many about this story. By using MAP’s
newsbot http://drugnewsbot.org?q=Virginia+OR+Va.+Lawmaker&concept=cannabis
you can compare different versions of the AP Wire service story as the news
breaks.

Writing letters to the editor to your local newspapers in Virginia about
delegate Harvey B. Morgan’s proposed legislation may help advance the
issue. Contacts for many newspapers may be found at
http://mapinc.org/media.htm

Virginia state representatives may be found at
http://capwiz.com/norml2/home/ and urged to co-sponsor Morgan’s courageous
medical marijuana and decriminalization legislation. Morgan’s proposed
legislation does not, at this time, have a co-sponsor.

Updated facts on medical marijuana you may wish to use are at
http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/54

Articles and opinion items are about medical marijuana are being posted
daily at http://www.mapinc.org/find?253 and breaking news posted hourly
about medical marijuana may be found at
http://drugnewsbot.org/topic/medical_cannabis.htm

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Virginia Lawmaker Proposes Medical Marijuana Bill

Pubdate: Weds, 20 Jan 2010

Source: AP (Wire)

shorter edit at the Washington Times –
http://mapinc.org/url/PDlNGbeC

a longer edit on the wires –
http://mapinc.org/url/DwvRSeC1

VA. LAWMAKER PROPOSES MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL

Steve Szkotak, Associated Press Writer

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Del. Harvey B. Morgan acknowledges he might not seem
a likely proponent of decriminalizing marijuana and making the drug
available medically. He’s 79, a Republican and he’s never touched the
stuff.

Surprising even his friends, Morgan has proposed bills that would ease
penalties for marijuana possession and allow doctors to prescribe marijuana
and pharmacists to dispense it for a wide range of medical uses.

Morgan, whose 31 years in the General Assembly ranks him No. 2 in
seniority, outlined his legislation Wednesday at a news conference. He came
prepared with a raft of charts, studies, legalization proponents and
medical professionals, and a good dose of realism on its prospects of
passage.

“I’m hopeful but not optimistic,” Morgan, of Gloucester, said after the
news conference.

Fourteen states have what advocates call effective medical marijuana laws.
Virginia has one of the oldest on the books — it dates back three decades
— but it was enacted primarily for limited research purposes.

“Virginia is one of 17 states with laws that recognize marijuana as a
medicine, but whose impact is strictly symbolic,” said Bruce Mirken,
formerly of the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project and now an
independent consultant.

Because of laws restricting marijuana possession and distribution, “there
is no supply of medical marijuana for physicians to prescribe or pharmacies
to dispense,” Mirken said.

Under Morgan’s two bills, the possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana
would be reduced from a criminal offense to a civil one, carrying a $500
fine. People now face jail sentences and fines for possessing less than 1
ounce of the drug. In 2007, 18,000 people were prosecuted in Virginia for
possessing 1 once of marijua na.

Twenty-one states have decriminalized marijuana.

The attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request by
The Associated Press to comment on Morgan’s proposals.

Morgan said he felt compelled to promote the decriminalization bill because
of the many lives damaged by possession of small amounts of marijuana. He
called his legislation a common sense approach and one that would ease
overburdened courts and jails.

“The commonwealth continues to punish people for mistakes made decades
ago,” Morgan said at the news conference. “We need to move to a more
honest, reasoned, compassionate, and sensible drug policy, and this bill
does that.”

The bill also eases penalties for marijuana distribution.

On medical marijuana, Morgan drew upon his experience as a pharmacist,
stating that all medications have benefits and risks. His bill would
broaden the current statute, which allows for marijuana’s use in the
treatment of cancer or glaucoma, to include chronic pain, Parkinson’s
disease and multiple sclerosis.

“We trust physicians with our health care,” he said. “Why not trust them to
determine appropriate therapy?”

Morgan is realistic, however, and acknowledged the legislation has not been
run by the medical establishment or law enforcement groups. The bills do
not have a co-sponsor.

Still, Morgan persuaded an old college classmate and skeptic, who attended
Wednesday’s news conference.

“I was surprised when I learned of this bill,” Dr. Gaylord W. Ray said. “It
seemed out of character.”

Like Morgan, however, Ray was persuaded by the suffering of patients and
the human costs of strict drug laws.

“It is a sad thing to see someone at the end of their life who is
struggling with cancer and taking chemotherapy and they can’t get relief
from nausea,” he said.

After more than three decades in the legislature, Morgan said he’s more
concerned about what’s right than with winning another term in office.

“If people choose not to elect me because of this, that’s up to them,” he
said. “But I’m doing the right thing, based on all the information I have.”

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Prepared by: Doug Snead * MAP Editor http://www.mapinc.org * International Drug
Policy Analyst * http://www.drugnewsbot.org