The first volley is now over the net! On October 21st, a work group composed of staff from three state agencies – the Department of Health, the Department of Revenue, and the Liquor Control Board – issued their draft recommendations for regulating medical marijuana. If you have reviewed the rules recently adopted for recreational marijuana, you’ll see some similarities. The recommendations, when completed, will go to the legislature at the start of 2014.
Here are the main points:
- Medical marijuana collective gardens and dispensaries (not actually authorized under current law) would be eliminated. Essentially, medical marijuana sales would be folded into the recreational marijuana system. Licensed retail marijuana stores with a state license endorsement could sell medical marijuana to authorized medical marijuana patients. Home-growing would not be permitted for medical marijuana patients.
- A medical marijuana registry would be set up and maintained by the state. A far more rigorous health care professional process would be established to authorize a medical marijuana patient, and there would be required medical follow-up. Medical marijuana authorizations would expire after one year and would then need to be renewed.
- Sales to medical marijuana patients would be exempt from the state/local retail sales and use tax. The excise taxes would be the same as for recreational marijuana. In essence, medical marijuana patients would get a break on the taxes.
- Labeling of medical marijuana would include the levels of THC and cannabinoids. Some strains of marijuana grown specifically for their medical benefits have very little THC in them.
- If a medical marijuana patient is under the age of 18, the child’s parent or guardian would need to consent, and the child could not have more than one dose in their possession.
This is still early in the process. These recommendations are going to get talked about a lot, and vetted by the legislature. There will be lots of objections by the existing medical marijuana growers and sellers – they have built up their businesses (and profits) by squirming between the cracks in the law, running unregulated and untaxed businesses for quite some time. All those who wish to submit comments to the work group preparing these recommendations (email@example.com) must do so before November 9th.
These draft recommendations (or something similarly rigid) are necessary if the legislature wants to fully address the concerns of the Department of Justice, as expressed in the August 29th Cole memo. See Marijuana – No Federal Roadblocks!, MRSC Insight, 08/29/2013.
The work group recommendation is that these changes go into effect no sooner than January 1, 2015. The Liquor Control Board would open registration for additional applications for marijuana retailers, and possibly accommodate some of the existing medical marijuana dispensaries that are willing to transition to the regulated market. All marijuana businesses, recreational or medical, would need to meet the existing 1,000-foot buffer zone requirements.
Once medical marijuana collective gardens, dispensaries, and home grow operations are prohibited by state law, anyone growing marijuana or engaging in any marijuana marketing/retailing without a state-issued license would be violating the law and subject to prosecution.
For further information on recreational and medical marijuana go to MRSC’s Recreational Marijuana: A Local Government Guide.