Senate was Expected to Pass Slater PTSD Bill But Session Ended Abruptly

Last night , Thursday June 25, the Senate was expected to pass a bill identical to the Slater PTSD bill.  The bill was on the calendar but the session was adjourned for the year before the vote on the bill.  The abrupt adjournment was shocking and had nothing to do with the PTSD bill. Many other bills were also left abandoned.  The General Assembly is expected to return for a special session in the fall. We are hopeful that the bill will pass at that time.  At the moment there is confusion about what to expect.

Thank you to all of you who made calls and sent emails.  You were heard and you made a difference.  The Senate agreed with us and was prepared to pass the bill before the impasse and unexpected adjournment.  Here’s the ProJo article: http://www.providencejournal.com/article/20150625/NEWS/150629489/-1/breaking_ajax

Unfortunately, the bills that would have allowed a patient who is also a caregiver to have 24 seedlings instead of the current 12, never made it out of Committees and will not become law this year.

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Slater PTSD Bill, H5776, Passes House, Please Call

Representative Scott Slater stood up for PTSD patients and refused to subject them to substance abuse evaluations (which could bar patients from Program) and unjustified monitoring for those who could prove they did not abuse “substances”. He stood up for PTSD patients and the House Committee on Judiciary agreed with him and refused to pass the Senate SubA. They passed Rep. Slater’s bill. The entire House agreed when they also passed Rep.Slater’s bill. Some key Senators have said that Rep. Slater’s bill does the “right thing” by giving PTSD patients meaningful access to MMj while expediting applications and waiving fees for hospice patients. Thank you to all who wrote letters and phoned your state reps. Let’s remember that it was Scott Slater’s father, Thomas, who stood up, against all odds, and led the fight to create the MMj Program in 2006. His son, Scott, is carrying on the tradition.

Now that the Slater bill has passed the House, please take a moment to call your State Senator and the Senate President and urge them to pass the House (SLATER) version of the PTSD bill, H.5766. It is time for PTSD patients to have meaningful access to the MMj Program.  The Senate President is Teresa Paiva-Weed  401.222.6655  sen-paivaweed@rilin.state.ri.us  If you need to know who your state senator is and get their contact info, go to https://sos.ri.gov/vic/  or call your local town or city hall.

Congratulations to all of you who have testified and called your state reps.  You, along with Rep. Slater, have achieved success for PTSD patients in the House. Now, let’s advocate for the Slater bill in the Senate.

PTSD PATIENTS WOULD FACE UNPRECEDENTED OBSTACLES TO MMj PROGRAM

PTSD BILL BACKFIRES.  INSTEAD OF CREATING AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY FOR VETERANS AND SO MANY OTHERS WHO ARE SUFFERING FROM THE EFFECTS OF SEVERE TRAUMA, IT WOULD CREATE DISCRIMINATION AND UNPRECEDENTED OBSTACLES FOR PTSD PATIENTS. The Senate recently passed a bill that would add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for the MMj Program and it would expedite applications and waive fees for hospice patients.  Unfortunately, the bill that the Senate passed is not the bill that we were fighting for.  It treats PTSD patients differently from all other patients by creating requirements that are expensive, degrading, unjustified, and cost prohibitive. This bill was passed without a hearing and without input from RIPAC and patients. That same Senate bill, S475 SubA could soon be passed by the House (without a hearing) and enacted into law. Here’s what happened:

Initially two identical bills were filed in both the Senate and House. The Senate bill was S475 and the House Bill was 5766.  These bills would have both added PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for the MMj Program and expedited MMj applications patients and waived the fees for hospice patients.  Hearings were held on both bills and some very brave PTSD patients came forward to tell their stories and explain how cannabis helps them.  BUT, a substitute bill was passed in the Senate, S475 SubA , which adds multiple obstacles for PTSD patients.  While there was a hearing on the original bill, S475, there was no hearing on the Sub A. It was passed by the Senate without input from RIPAC and PTSD patients. Now the House is being asked to pass the same Sub A.  

Problem with SubA.

  • PTSD patients must prove that they do not have substance abuse problems at their own expense. Requires comprehensive evaluation and documentation by a mental health professional or addiction specialist that patient does not have a current substance abuse problem. Patients who have been self-medicating with alcohol or other substances would be excluded from MMj Program.
  • PTSD patients would have special monitoring at their own expense. After proving that they do NOT have a substance abuse issue, PTSD patients would be subject to monitoring at their expense. At least four visits to doctor or other health professional for monitoring in the first year. These visits must be in conjunction with at least 4 visits to mental health professional who works “in collaboration” with the doctor.  After first year, drops to minimum of two visits per year to both health and mental health professionals.
  • PTSD patients would have to prove that other meds and therapies did not work. Patient must have written documentation that they have undergone “standard course of pharmacological and mental health treatment for PTSD with written documentation of inadequate clinical response or intolerable adverse reactions”. Unlike other patients, PTSD patients would have to show that they tried therapies and other medications, but they did not work. Not clear if they would have try all other possible meds first but would have to try whatever meds are in a “standard course”.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

CALL YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY. TELL THEM TO STOP THE SUB A AND GIVE VETERANS AND OTHER PTSD PATIENTS MEANINGFUL ACCESS TO THE MMj PROGAM BY VOTING IN FAVOR OF THE ORIGINAL HOUSE BILL 5766. TELL THEM THE SENATE SUB A (Senate Bill 475 SubA) WILL HURT MORE THAN HELP BY CREATING UNPRECEDENTED OBSTACLES TO THE MMj PROGRAM. IT WILL EXCLUDE MANY AND COULD COST OTHERS THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS TO ACCESS. OUR VETERANS AND OTHERS WHO ARE SUFFERING FROM PTSD DESERVE BETTER.

PLEASE CALL YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  THE 2015 SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY IS COMING TO AN END AND THIS BILL COULD PASS QUICKLY.   IF YOU DO NOT KNOW WHO YOUR REPRESENTATIVE IS, GO TO THE VOTER INFORMATION CENTER AT https://sos.ri.gov/vic/  and enter your address or call your town or city hall and ask for their name and contact info.  Remember – you want to contact your STATE representative, not federal (Senators Whitehouse and Reed and Congressmen Cicilline and Langevin have nothing to do with this bill).  You can view the bill:  http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/SenateText15/S0475Aaa.pdf

Court Rules That Colorado Law Does Not Protect MMj Patient From Being Fired But RI Law Is Different

The Colorado Appeals Court recently ruled that a MMj patient could be fired for using cannabis even if the use is after hours and job performance is not affected. The patient’s attorney argued that the employer violated a Colorado law that says employers can’t fire employees for doing legal things off the clock. The question that the Court had to decide was whether the Colorado law protected activities that legal under state law but illegal under federal law. It concluded that their was no reason to believe that the law intended to protect activities that are illegal under federal law.  You can read the opinion: https://www.courts.state.co.us/Courts/Court_Of_Appeals/Opinion/2013/12CA0595%20%26%2012CA1704-PD.pdf     Rhode Island specifically protects MMj patients .  There is no doubt that the RI Legislature intended to protect cannabis use by licensed patients because they passed a law that specifically prohibits employment and housing discrimination. Chapter 21-28.6-4 (c) of the Medical Marijuana Act protects MMj employees and tenants as follows:    No school, employer, or landlord may refuse to enroll, employ, or lease to, or otherwise penalize, a person solely for his or her status as a cardholder. Provided, however, due to the safety and welfare concern for other tenants, the property, and the public, as a whole, a landlord may have the discretion not to lease, or continue to lease, to a cardholder who cultivates marijuana in the leased premises.”    So far, the RI courts have not made any rulings on this anti-discrimination provision.

RI Senate Committee Recommends PTSD Bill But With Stipulations

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services recommended passage of an amended version of  the PTSD bill, S475 subA.  The bill would add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for the MMj Program but with some confusing stipulations:  In the case of a qualifying patient seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder  (PTSD), the patient has been diagnosed with PTSD by a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist,  psychiatric and mental health clinical nurse specialist, or independently licensed master’s level  mental health professional has received a course of standard pharmacological and mental health  treatment for PTSD with written documentation of inadequate clinical response or intolerable  adverse reactions, received a comprehensive evaluation by a licensed mental health or addiction  professional with a written determination that the patient does not have a current substance use  disorder, and will receive follow-up monitoring and treatment by a licensed health professional in  collaboration with a licensed psychiatrist psychologist, psychiatric and mental health clinical  nurse specialist, or licensed master’s level mental health professional at least quarterly for the first  year and semi-annually thereafter to assess clinical response and adverse reactions to medical marijuana ”    The bill would also expedite MMj applications and waive fees for hospice patients.  The bill is scheduled for a vote by the entire Senate on Thursday.  The original House bill is still being held by the Committee.  In order for a bill to become law both the House and Senate must pass identical bills. You can read the subA:  http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText15/SenateText15/S0475A.pdf

ALERT – S791 Which Would Have Eliminated Caregivers Is Being Replaced With S791 SubA

Senate Legislative Office told that it is official. S791 is being replaced with S791 Sub A.  Unlike the original bill, the Sub A DOES NOT ELIMINATE CAREGIVERS OR CO-OPS. It does create the two for profit entities that could sell to the compassion centers. They could also sell to caregivers.  S791 will be heard tomorrow at the Senate hearing. We will provide you the link to this new bill as soon as it is posted on line