This act specifies that any pregnant woman referred for drug abuse or drug dependence treatment at any treatment resource that receives public funding would be a priority user of available treatment. The department of mental health and substance abuse services must ensure that family-oriented drug abuse or drug dependence treatment is available, as appropriations allow. A treatment resource that receives public funds may not refuse to treat a person solely because the person is pregnant as long as appropriate services are offered by the treatment resource.

This act amends Tennessee’s fetal homicide law to allow the prosecution of a pregnant woman for the illegal use of a narcotic drug, if her child is born addicted or harmed by the drugs she took during her pregnancy. The charge of assault is a misdemeanor offense, but if the child is harmed, aggravated assault, with a 15-year maximum prison term, could be charged. That a woman is enrolled in long term drug addiction treatment before the child is born, remains in the program after delivery and successfully completes the program is an affirmative defense under the law. The law is set to expire on July 1, 2016.

In contrast to broad, comprehensive laws authorizing the general use of marijuana for medical purposes, several states have recently enacted laws authorizing the limited use of “Low THC-High CBD” marijuana products to treat specific illnesses or symptoms. The laws commonly (1) use a very specific and limited definition of the authorized marijuana products; (2) limit the types of illnesses and symptoms subject to treatment at the direction of a physician; (3) limit the approved distributors of the marijuana product; (4) create a specific legal defense to criminal prosecution for the use of the sanctioned marijuana products; and (5) require patients or physicians to register with a particular state entity or obtain an identification/registration card prior to obtaining the marijuana product. Some of the laws were created as pilot study programs or clinical trials, while others are general authorizations for the limited use of certain marijuana products to treat specific illnesses and symptoms.

State and territorial attorneys general have made it a priority to combat the epidemic of prescription opioid abuse and to protect military service members from predatory lenders. Their efforts include law enforcement operations, state drug monitoring programs and education campaigns. 

Recent voter initiatives in Colorado and Washington legalizing the use of recreational marijuana have amplified the debate and the uncertain social and legal ramifications. The Future of Western Legislatures Forum featured industry perspectives and insights from officials about how their states are implementing these initiatives. The session also focused on state medical marijuana laws, including state program comparisons and challenges.

Gov. Peter Shumlin announced yesterday, according to the Burlington Free Press, restrictions that will make it harder for doctors to prescribe the new FDA approved painkiller Zohydro. His announcement follows last week's ban of the drug by Massachusetts. 

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Concerned about the rise in drug-related health problems among newborns, Indiana lawmakers unanimously approved a measure in February that takes a first step in trying to address Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

The heroin overdose deaths of actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Cory Monteith of the television show "Glee" have raised public attention about the rising abuse of drugs. Some states are trying to address the increase in overdose deaths from heroin and other opiates by making naloxone more readily available to addicts.

Yesterday the Office of National Drug Control Policy urged that first responders be equipped with naloxone, a medication used to counteract opiate overdoses. Some states already have laws on the books to do just that.

In a CSG research brief...

Drug overdose deaths have more than doubled between 1999 and 2010. In 2010, these deaths, from both prescription drug and illicit drug overdoses, surpassed traffic accidents as the number one cause of death for persons less than 65 years old. Sixteen states, beginning with New Mexico in 2001, have passed harm reduction laws to increase the availability of naloxone, an overdose antidote administered by injection or nasal spray. The same number of states have passed Good Samaritan laws to address the fear of criminal repercussions for bystanders and overdose victims who report overdoses. At the beginning of Feb. 2014, seven additional states had new legislation pending and another seven states were considering amendments to current laws.  

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