Original Post: Merry Jane: Dealers Caught with More Than 100,000 Counterfeit Weed Vape Cartridges
[Canniseur: While this is a start, the black market for vape cartridges is so large, ‘when it comes to slowing the damage done by counterfeit vape carts, this single arrest is nothing more than a flea bite on an elephant’s backside’. ]
While it’s unclear if these black market vapes contain chemical thickeners, the bust offers an important look at the underground industry which has led to a slew of vape-related illnesses.
Police officers in Kenosha County, Wisconsin say that a tip from a local high school student led them to a sophisticated counterfeit THC vape cartridge manufacturing operation that could potentially be tied to the vape-related illness that has already hospitalized hundreds of Americans and killed at least six.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, brothers Tyler and Jacob Huffhines were arrested after a search warrant of a condo in Bristol, WI turned up 31,200 filled vape cartridges, 98,000 empty vape cartridges, and 57 mason jars filled with what appeared to be cannabis oil. At the height of the operation, police say the crew was filling 3,000-5,000 cartridges every single day.
Local sheriffs say that they were led to the Huffhines brothers thanks to a pair of parents who pushed their son to tattle after catching him puffing on a vape cartridge, which the teen said he purchased for just $16. Authorities have sent samples of the oil to a laboratory, but it is not yet clear if the vape cartridges or cannabis oil confiscated from the Huffhines contains vitamin E acetate, the diluent currently thought to be causing the rash of vape illnesses.
But while parents, health experts, and even the president have all decried the vape illnesses as a cause for grave concern, most experts have failed to consider how black market vape cartridges are actually produced, and how potentially dangerous chemicals can be distributed to youth across the country. And so whether these particular Wisconsin cartridges contain chemical thickeners or not, the busted operation is an important look at the underground vape industry.
Gallery — Here’s What Fake Vape Carts Actually Look Like:
At similar cart mills around the country, like-minded dealers order cheap empty vape cartridges and familiar packaging from overseas manufacturers, and mason jars full of cannabis oil from black market dealers — usually in California, Oregon. Next, the dealers will use syringes or pipettes to measure oil into each cartridge, screwing the tops on and folding them into boxes with names like Dank Vapes, Mario Carts, Exotic Vapes, and countless others. In Wisconsin, authorities say that the Huffhines paid a team of employees $20 an hour to fill cartridges and stuff them into thousands upon thousands of boxes labeled with various strains of “Dank Vapes,” “Chronic Carts,” and “Dabwoods.”
Since the cannabis oil is typically imported from a black market source, and traditionally sent by mail, illicit cart makers often do not know exactly what is in the mason jars they are sourcing. What may appear to be a potent THC distillate flavored with botanical terpenes could actually be cut with vitamin E acetate, glycol, or another diluent. On the other hand, it is also possible that counterfeit vape makers could purchase and add their own cutting agents to further stretch the selling potential of their untested cannabis oil. Without lab testing, there is frankly no way for consumers to know what it actually inside vape cartridges produced on the black market.
Wisconsin police say they are investigating to see how far the Huffhines’ suspected cannabis cartridge organization spread, and whether the brothers were responsible for distributing their carts on a national scale. But even if it is found that the brothers were selling cartridges cut with vitamin E acetate to high schoolers across the country, the widespread and decentralized nature of the black market cart industry means that it is almost certain that there are still countless other dealers pushing thousands upon thousands of similar products. In an interview with Leafly this week, Michigan-based Floraplex Terpenes CEO Alec Riffle estimated that there are 50 million vape cartridges cut with vitamin E acetate currently circulating throughout the US black market.
Tyler and Jacob Huffhines are being charged with manufacturing, distribution, and delivery of more than 10,000 grams of marijuana, as well as gun charges, cocaine possession, and a slew of other crimes. But when it comes to slowing the damage done by counterfeit vape carts, the single arrest is nothing more than a flea bite on an elephant’s backside.
Top Image via
Original Post: Merry Jane: Dealers Caught with More Than 100,000 Counterfeit Weed Vape Cartridges
Original Post: Merry Jane: New Mexico Will Now Allow Out of State Residents to Get Medical Marijuana Cards
[Canniseur: More states with medical cannabis programs allow out of state residents to either get a card or use their card from their home state. This is a good thing and, at a low level, creating medical cannabis a ‘national’ program. Although it’s still contained entirely in each individual state. Confused? So am I!]
Thanks to a recent ruling from a New Mexico judge, residents from across the nation can now secure the right to purchase and consume cannabis legally in the Land of Enchantment.
If you’re planning a trip to New Mexico to check out the picturesque scenery or see if you can find and liberate a few new extraterrestrial friends, you can now add a little medicinal greenery to your desert vacation — even if you don’t actually live in the Land of Enchantment.
According to a report from the Phoenix New Times, a ruling from a New Mexico District Judge has opened the state medical marijuana program to out of state residents. Now, anyone who qualifies can register for a legal weed card in New Mexico, no matter where they live.
Derek Rodriguez, a cannabusiness owner who lives in nearby Arizona, was the first non-resident to obtain a New Mexico MMJ card. After a change in the state’s medical marijuana program removed a residency requirement, Rodriguez sued for his right to participate in the New Mexico system. And while Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said that the residency removal was intended to facilitate reciprocity for MMJ cardholders from other states, District Judge Bryan Biedscheid sided with Rodriguez, and ruled that the program is open to any person who would like to apply, regardless of any MMJ status in their home state or country.
States like Nevada and Hawaii already allow reciprocity for medical marijuana cardholders from other states. But when it comes to open enrollment in an out-of-state program, New Mexico’s new policy is the first of its kind. Despite recent pushes from local cannabis advocates, New Mexico has not yet been able to pass a recreational legalization proposal.
“It’s fantastic that New Mexico is going through this in a very public manner,” Demitri Downing, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Trade Association of Arizona, told Phoenix New Times. “The more and more people discuss it, the more and more people understand the nuances of what doesn’t make sense. And what doesn’t make sense is not having reciprocity.”
Joining Rodriguez, two Texan men also sued New Mexico for the right to join the state’s medical marijuana program. For a huge number of Texans, New Mexico reciprocity could allow them to take a short drive from the draconian drug policies of the Lone Star State to legally access cannabis elsewhere.
New Mexico officials say that they plan to appeal Judge Biedscheid’s ruling to try and reign in the reciprocity clause.
Lead image via
Original Post: Merry Jane: New Mexico Will Now Allow Out of State Residents to Get Medical Marijuana Cards
Original Post: Marijuana Moment: Overregulation Drives Illegal Marijuana Market In Legal States, Study Suggests
[Canniseur: What the hell do cannabis regulators expect? We have a perfect model for re-regulation (and over-regulation) and it’s called the alcoholic beverage industry. After prohibition, many state regulators were over taxing, over regulating, and over indulging themselves with bureaucratic lunacy. And guess what happened? There was more bootleg whiskey than legal whiskey. Mr. Song’s paper, which a large part of this story is based on, should have taken history into account.]
Excessive state regulations may be the reason illegal marijuana markets continue to exist after legalization, a new exploratory study found after looking at data from the first two U.S. states to end cannabis prohibition.
“The qualitative analysis of news reports reveals that regulation is one of the main reasons that people stay in the illicit market,” the paper states. “The comparison of marijuana crime trends in Colorado and Washington shows mixed findings. While marijuana offense rates in Colorado largely remained steady over the years, those in Washington increased dramatically after the implementation of more intensive regulations.”
Published in July, the research is the master’s thesis of Sikang Song, a graduate student of the criminology and criminal justice department at Portland State University.
Song writes that he was interested in understanding why the unregulated marijuana market persists in states where cannabis is legal. Since growers, sellers and consumers have “legitimate channels” to produce, trade and obtain cannabis, these illegal avenues should presumably diminish.
Yet research shows they haven’t disappeared altogether: Last year, one report found that 18 percent of cannabis consumers in California said they purchased marijuana products from an unlicensed seller.
For his analysis, Song investigated whether there’s an association between how intense state cannabis-related regulations are and the extent of the remaining illegal market. First, he reviewed news articles published between late 2013 to April 2019 featuring interviews with cultivators, sellers and consumers who shared the various reasons why they remain in the unregulated market. He then looked into whether marijuana arrest rates changed in the first two legal states after new sets of regulations were installed.
In Washington, he used June 2016 as the intervention point, and in Colorado, he used November 2015 and January 2017 as intervention points. (In 2017, for example, Colorado state lawmakers passed new rules regarding labeling and packaging of all containers holding marijuana flower and trim, concentrates and other products.)
According to the study, the reasons most people said they grew or sold marijuana illegally were “strict regulations and the high cost associated with the compliance.”
“Over two thirds of recording units (68%; n = 115) contain interviews and quotations from black market participants stating this reason,” the paper states. “Terms such as ‘overregulation,’ ‘cost of compliance,’ ‘high taxes’ are frequently used in the headlines and texts to describe ‘barriers’ for ‘small producers’ to enter the legal market or ‘drive’ them to the black market.”
Other reasons for staying in the illegal marijuana market included high taxes, market fluctuations and organized crime.
Using an interrupted-time series analysis, Song also found that Washington’s crime rate increased after the state introduced more regulations. “In 2014 and 2015, the marijuana crime rates per 100,000 residents were both at around 26,” he writes. “This number was increased to more than 28 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2016. In 2017, a total of 2,628 marijuana crimes were reported by law enforcement agencies in Washington, making the annual crime rates 35.96 per capita.”
Colorado, on the other hand, did not see any significant short- or long-term changes to its cannabis-related crime rates after the state implemented new marijuana regulations.
“Although the findings are not conclusive, the results of Washington data show that regulation intensity may be one of the main factors that influences or explains the persistence of illegal cannabis transactions after the legalization,” the study states. “The fact that Washington’s marijuana black market kept growing after the implementation of more complex and sophisticated regulations at least indicates a correlation between regulation intensity and the increase of the black market in the case of Washington.”
The fact that similar findings were not reported in Colorado, the study continues, suggests “the magnitude of illicit marijuana activities may be affected by regulation intensity in some states.”
Ultimately, the author points out, these results raise questions about “the possible adverse effect of intensive regulations to researchers and policy makers.”
If one of the goals in marijuana legalization is to eliminate the unregulated market, Song writes, it’s important for lawmakers to consider the implications of unnecessarily strict state rules. Instead, they should focus on creating an “equitable and accessible market that allows the coexistence of both large and small businesses.”
“The cost of compliance to regulations should be reduced to remove the barriers of establishing a legal marijuana business,” Song concludes, adding that “future policies should also pay more attention to cracking down [on] persistent illegal growers and sellers and organized crime groups who are unwilling to participate the legal market.”
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.
Overregulation Drives Illegal Marijuana Market In Legal States, Study Suggests was posted on Marijuana Moment.
Original Post: Cannabis Now: Advocates Push Workers’ Right to Cannabis Use
[Canniseur: The courts are finally starting to turn around on the question of workers rights within legal medical or adult-use cannabis. 15 States have made progress, while California, Michigan, Oregon, or Washington do not have protections in place.]
Advocates increasingly assert that cannabis legalization is not fully realized unless workers are guaranteed their right employment even if they partake of the herb off-hours. Some states are finally taking measures to rein in the use of urine test results as an excuse to fire or turn down job applicants.
If you use cannabis on your own time in a state where it is legal, should that be grounds for terminating your employment or rejecting your application for a job? Advocates are starting to say no, and demanding action to protest workers’ rights to use cannabis without the fear of the sack and unemployment.
Some states have already made progress in this direction. Yet California, which led the way toward opening legal space for cannabis with the Propositio 215 medical marijuana initiative in 1996, is not among them. Neither 215 nor the Prop 64 adult-use legalization initiative exactly 20 years later provided any such protections.
California Out of the Vanguard
California’s Supreme Court actually ruled on the question in 2008, finding that Prop 215 does not protect workers’ rights. The high court dismissed a suit brought by Gary Ross, an Air Force veteran who suffered from a back injury sustained during his military service. Ross sued under the state’s Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA), charging that he had been wrongfully denied employment by RagingWire Telecommunications after testing positive for cannabis use. The court found that 215 did not create a general right to use medical marijuana, but only protected patients from criminal prosecution.
Later that year, the State Legislature passed a law to correct this situation, making it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers in non-safety-sensitive jobs for using medical marijuana. However, it was vetoed by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has launched a campaign to instate employment protections for cannabis users.
Progress in 15 States
Fortunately, things are looking a little better elsewhere in the United States. Fifteen states have passed laws making it illegal for an employer to discriminate against either an employee or job applicant who uses medical marijuana as permitted by state law. These states are Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
In June, Nevada became the first state to actually ban pre-employment cannabis testing altogether — for workers not in public safety positions, an inevitable exception. The law was signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak and will take effect next year.
In Maine, which voted to legalize adult-use cannabis in the same 2016 elections that California and Nevada did, employers are not allowed to discriminate based on cannabis use. This was written into the text of the Pine Tree State’s 2002 medical marijuana law. However, there are no laws that directly address drug testing.
The New York City Council also passed a measure this April that bars employers from requiring job applicants to pass a cannabis screening test as a condition of employment.
There is likewise a sense of the tide turning on the judicial front. After years of upholding employee firings for use of cannabis even under state medical marijuana programs, the courts are finally starting to turn around on the question. The rights of Massachusetts medical patients were upheld in state court last year, as were those of patients in Rhode Island and Connecticut.
In February of this year, another such victory was reported from Arizona — this time in the federal courts. Carol Whitmire, a former Arizona Walmart employee and card-holding medical marijuana patient who was fired after testing positive for cannabis, won a wrongful termination suit in the U.S. district court in Phoenix.
A remedy from Capitol Hill may also be in the works. Legislation introduced in the House of Representatives this year would protect the jobs of federal employees who use cannabis in states where their use is currently legal. The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act would prohibit cannabis drug-testing “from being used as the sole factor to deny or terminate federal employment for civilian positions at executive branch agencies if the individual is in compliance with the marijuana laws in their state of residence.”
And the Golden State, which has long been at the forefront of expanding freedom for cannabis users, may soon be catching up with Nevada, its supposedly more conservative neighbor to the east. California NORML asserts: “Employment drug testing has been shown in federal studies not to improve worker safety, but it’s a great way to discriminate against cannabis consumers. We hope to sponsor a bill that will truly make marijuana legal for all adults and educate unions and employers about the needlessness of drug testing.”
Advocates Push Workers’ Right to Cannabis Use was posted on Cannabis Now.
Original Post: Marijuana Moment: GOP Senator Wants Hearing On Marijuana Legalization Dangers Before Fixing Banking Issue
[Canniseur: There ought to be a way to stop these old dinosaurs with old data points from dragging out the legislative process simply because they can’t learn current facts. The dinosaurs are around, but they won’t be forever. But really? The gateway drug thing really has to be put to rest.]
Forcing marijuana businesses to operate on a largely cash-only basis is “a real threat,” anti-legalization Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) acknowledged in a recent interview. But the Senate should first hold a hearing on the “public health consequences” of ending cannabis prohibition before advancing legislation to resolve the financial services problem, he said.
Speaking at a Hudson Institute event on combating transnational crime last month, Cornyn first talked generally about conflicting state and federal marijuana laws and expressed concerns about THC potency in products available in state-legal markets.
“I think the mixed messages that we’re seeing as a result of the federal prohibition on marijuana possession, sales and transportation, and then the lack of enforcement at the state level because of initiatives taking place in those states that broaden the use from, let’s say, medical marijuana—whatever that is—to recreational, to other types of things. I think, you know, young people could understandably be confused about that,” he said.
The senator said he wants to hold a hearing before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, which he co-chairs, on the health impacts of legalization and specifically high-THC concentration products.
“It’s a new ballgame, with higher concentrations of the drugs, the challenges that brings to public safety, to individual mental health and also the consequences of being a gateway to some of these other drugs, certainly interacting with criminal organizations that peddle illegal drugs,” he said.
John Walters, the former White House drug czar and current chief operating officer of the Hudson Institute who led the discussion with Cornyn, brought up banking as an issue that could affect “the domestic expansion of marijuana.” He asked the senator what he thought of the prospects of passing a bill to fix the problem.
Cornyn said he recently spoke with Senate Banking Committee Chair Mike Crapo (R-ID), whose panel held a hearing on marijuana banking last month, and that he was aware of testimony outlining the issues posed by the current situation.
“There’s huge cash. And obviously, the danger of that from a corruption standpoint or just a public safety standpoint, that’s a real threat,” he said. “They’re actually beginning to explore whether there ought to be some sort of carve-out or some sort of accommodation made where the proceeds of this, quote, ‘legal’ business at the state level can somehow enter the banking system.”
Crapo “was expressing to me that that’s no easy task,” Cornyn said, adding that he told the chair about his desire to hold a separate hearing on the impact of legalization before proceeding with a banking fix.
“Let’s have this hearing on the public safety consequences so people can go into this with their eyes open,” the senator said.
Photo courtesy of YouTube/Hudson Institute.
GOP Senator Wants Hearing On Marijuana Legalization Dangers Before Fixing Banking Issue was posted on Marijuana Moment.
Original Post: Marijuana Moment: Top House Democrat Peddles Gateway Theory To Justify Marijuana Legalization Opposition
[Canniseur: Who is this guy? Actually, we know. And we know he’s a dinosaur. He’s a dinosaur who admits he’s not listening to his constituents. He’s listening to arguments from the 1960s. The arguments he’s presenting go beyond specious and he’s demonstrating he doesn’t know how to not conflate causation with correlation. We’re getting tired of this. We’re all getting tired of this.
The second highest ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives wrote on Monday that he remains wary of supporting the legalization of marijuana because he believes it is a gateway to “harder, very harmful drugs.”
In the letter from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), which was shared with Marijuana Moment by a constituent of the congressman, the top Democrat cited his record of embracing more modest cannabis reform proposals but stopped short of pledging to back adult-use legalization.
“I support the legalization of medical marijuana, as I am aware that it does have an ameliorating effect on pain and other circumstances that may be useful for patients,” he said, adding that he voted in favor of an amendment to protect medical cannabis states from federal interference. Hoyer more recently cast a vote for a measure that extends that protection to all legal marijuana states, though his letter does not mention it.
He also said he was in favor of Maryland’s decision to decriminalize marijuana possession in 2014, “as I do believe that there are too many non-violent offenders suffering in prison from a criminal conviction over possession.”
When Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke (D) first floated the idea of legalizing drugs as a means to curb drug-related violence and other issues related to prohibition in the late 1980s, Hoyer wrote that he was was “initially amenable” to cannabis legalization.
But in the decades since, he’s backpedalled—apparently so much so that he’s offering an argument against legalization in 2019 that even staunch prohibitionists have begun to distance themselves from.
“I still have concerns on this after speaking to people who deal with drug abuse and rehabilitation issues and particularly after learning of the drug’s harmful consequences as a threshold drug that leads to the use of harder, very harmful drugs,” Hoyer wrote, using alternative language to describe the widely criticized gateway drug theory.
Evidence doesn’t bear out the gateway theory, as it ignores the fact that marijuana is the most widely used illicit substance and would therefore logically be one of the first drugs that a person uses in many cases. It also conflates causation with correlation, as the same principle could be used to argue that any commonly used drug like nicotine or alcohol leads people to use substances like heroin or cocaine.
What’s more, a growing body of research has demonstrated that for some people, cannabis serves as an offramp, used as an alternative to addictive prescription medications and illicit drugs.
“Rep. Hoyer is showing himself to be a relic of a bygone era who is far out of touch with the majority of Americans on marijuana policy,” Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “Marijuana legalization and regulation has been proven, in the real world not in Hoyer’s imaginary one, to lead to a decrease in youth use and to help people struggling with opioid addiction.”
“By sticking to the long debunked myth of marijuana as a gateway drug, Hoyer is denying actual science and failing his constituents by advancing talking points straight from the Reefer Madness era,” Altieri said. “It is time he joined the rest of us on the right side of history or for his district to find new representation.”
Hoyer made similar remarks last year, acknowledging that voters are largely in favor of legalization and that it “probably makes sense” but stating that he’s “not so sure that it’s not a gateway drug to using other drugs.”
Robert Capecchi, the constituent who wrote to Hoyer about legalization, told Marijuana Moment that he while he doesn’t dislike the congressman and voted for him, “it’s incredibly disappointing to see opposition to cannabis policy reform—beyond accommodating medical cannabis laws—based on the debunked ‘gate-way theory,’ especially from one of the most senior members of Democratic Leadership.”
“I sincerely hope that Rep. Hoyer and other members of the House Democratic Leadership team take a page from their Judiciary Chair and start taking the need to reform our failed federal marijuana laws with the seriousness it deserves,” Capecchi wrote, referencing legislation Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced last month to federally deschedule cannabis.
Other Democratic leaders in Congress such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) are also on board with reform plans, with the pair having introduced companion bills to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act in May.
“This is not about use; people use and will continue to use cannabis regardless of federal law,” Capecchi said. “It’s about safety, it’s about equity, it’s about compassion, and it’s about responsible regulation and accurate education.”
At a time when numerous cannabis legalization bills are being filed and a majority of Democratic presidential candidates are vocally supporting broad reform, it’s unusual to see a party leader openly peddle what most consider an outdated and inaccurate theory, even if that position is couched in less familiar language (i.e. “threshold” versus “gateway”).
But it’s not entirely unheard of, as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, similarly subscribes to the gateway drug theory and didn’t shy away from saying so during an appearance on C-SPAN last year.
Read Hoyer’s letter below:
August 26, 2019
Dear Mr. Capecchi,
Thank you for your letter regarding the legalization of marijuana. I appreciate your taking the time to make me aware of your concerns on this important matter.
I support the legalization of medical marijuana, as I am aware that it does have an ameliorating effect on pain and other circumstances that may be useful for patients. In the past, I have voted for an amendment in the Commerce Justice and Science appropriations bill that would prevent the Federal Government from impeding on Maryland’s ability to implement its medical marijuana laws. I also supported the decision made by Governor O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly in 2014 to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in Maryland as I do believe that there are too many non-violent offenders suffering in prison from a criminal conviction over possession.
As you may know, I was initially amenable to the idea of the legalization of marijuana when Kurt Schmoke was Mayor of Baltimore and advocating for drug decriminalization. However, in the 30 years since, I still have concerns on this after speaking to people who deal with drug abuse and rehabilitation issues and particularly after learning of the drug’s harmful consequences as a threshold drug that leads to the use of harder, very harmful drugs.
Should legislation regarding the legalization of marijuana come before the full House of Representatives, please be assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind.
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me. I encourage you to visit my website at www.hoyer.house.gov. While there, you can sign up for the Hoyer Herald, access my voting record, and get information about important public issues. If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
With kindest regards, I am
Steny H. Hoyer
Image element courtesy of Tim Evanson.
Top House Democrat Peddles Gateway Theory To Justify Marijuana Legalization Opposition was posted on Marijuana Moment.
Original Post: High Times: Utah Will No Longer Have State-Run Medical Cannabis Dispensary Networks
[Canniseur: Voters vote. They enact laws and make changes to their state constitutions. Legislators sometimes don’t agree with the people who elected them. But the legislators are the ones who were voted into office in the first place. It’s hard to understand this, but it happens all the time. Utah is at least giving the voters what they voted into law. There are a lot of ‘special interests’ involved in this, but it’s time for the voters to have a voice. And in Utah, the legislature seems to be giving the voters what they enacted.]
Over the last couple years, medical marijuana in Utah has been a hot and controversial subject. In what has become a protracted, back-and-forth process between state legislators, medical marijuana advocates, and other powerful players in the state, Utah’s medical marijuana program continues to undergo dramatic changes.
Now, state lawmakers are preparing to make another significant change. Specifically, they said they will soon eliminate a proposal to distribute medical cannabis through state and county health departments. Instead, medical marijuana in the state will be sold through a network of privately owned and operated dispensaries.
New Changes to Utah’s Medical Marijuana Program
As reported by local news source Fox 13 Salt Lake City, lawmakers are set to introduce the new change in a special session of the State Legislature.
Importantly, this change will overhaul the state’s planned system for distributing medical marijuana. Up until now, the state planned on using a “central fill” system. In this framework, all medical marijuana would be distributed and sold through state and local health departments.
The plan sparked controversy when it was passed at the end of 2018. Specifically, many medical marijuana advocates pointed out that the program would run into problems, as it essentially forces governmental workers and agencies to sell a federally banned substance.
And sure enough, those fears began materializing last month. Specifically, the Davis County Attorney and Salt Lake County Attorney both advised their respective health departments to not distribute medical marijuana. In both cases, the attorneys expressed concern that state and local workers might not be protected against federal prosecution.
Now, the proposed changes aim to avoid these problems. Under the new plan, there will be 12 private dispensaries throughout the state. Those dispensaries will replace the previously planned seven state-run distributors.
Additionally, the new rules will also make finance-related changes. According to early reports, lawmakers will allow for electronic payments instead of relying entirely on cash transactions.
A Step Closer to What Voters Approved
In many ways, the new changes will move Utah’s medical marijuana program closer to the program originally approved by voters. In 2018, voters approved Proposition 2. However, that bill was quickly replaced by a different bill.
Immediately sparking controversy, this replacement bill was put into place exclusively by lawmakers—without going to a public vote. Further, the bill was drafted in closed door meetings between representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church, high-ranking lawmakers, and other opponents of Proposition 2.
The replacement bill dramatically altered the provisions of Proposition 2. And one of the biggest changes was the switch from private dispensaries to central fill.
Ironically, the changes now being proposed by lawmakers are essentially returning to the distribution system originally outlined in Proposition 2. Lawmakers are now hopeful to get the program up and running by March 2020.
“We are happy to hear that the legislators are working towards better solutions for a healthier medical cannabis program,” Christine Stenquist, Founder and Executive Director of Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, told Fox 13. “Even now with the possibility of an added five licenses for dispensaries, we will continue to see patients in rural counties severely underserved.”
Utah Will No Longer Have State-Run Medical Cannabis Dispensary Networks was posted on High Times.
[Canniseur: It’s a little surprising the little country of Luxembourg could wield much influence over big countries like Germany and Italy. But…they certainly do seem to have a whole lot of influence. And now they’re moving to include adult use.]
For those who have been watching, Luxembourg has played an inordinately influential role on the entire cannabis discussion in Europe for the past year.
This summer, the country announced that it had plans to implement recreational use (for residents only) within two years.
Last summer, the country not only changed its medical use policy as the Deutsche Börse tried to halt the clearances of cannabis trades made in Germany (Luxembourg is the place where the stock trades clear), but set a five-year mandate and timeframe as well.
This new announcement certainly is an attempt to signal at any rate, that the government is not going to run out the clock. But, realistically, with the extra six months already in front of the start date necessary to enshrine the legislation, plus whatever complications arise after that, Luxembourg could initiate its market on January 1, 2022.
Or, as is more likely, it could not. Including rolling delays caused by everything from EU objection and internal logistical hurdles of other kinds to lack of access to product.
Will Luxembourg be the “Colorado of Europe?” Probably not.
Will Luxembourg “be the next Canada?” Probably not either. However it is also worth noting that legislators and lawmakers from Luxembourg have drawn recent inspiration via numerous fact finding trips to Canada of late.
It is also worth remembering that even Canada’s great, green, “well-oiled” cannabis machine delayed its recreational market start by months last year. And that was a scenario already a generation in the making.
Further, as some would argue this summer, certainly post CannTrust, the relative “speed” with which Canada embraced its recreational market is again being criticized for not only being precipitous but a direct cause of problems in financial compliance and tracking.
The lack of regulatory muster, in other words, that even allowed a CannTrust to happen, will not fly in Europe. Certainly not in a country where regulations, including that of the European kind, are decided upon (the other center of EU regmaking is of course Brussels).
For that reason, no matter how exciting the news to an industry fighting an uphill battle on medical efficacy, there is plenty of room to temper enthusiasm.
Luxembourg is not going to be “just like” anywhere seen so far. The needle has moved. And the conversation is morphing if not moving on.
One of the most intriguing aspects of all of this, of course, is how insurers will treat the entire discussion.
Holland Round 2?
Here is what Luxembourg also won’t be. A new tourist mecca for out of towners. At least according to the current discussion. How the government will prevent that, is of course unclear. The same grey areas exist in the law behind Barcelona’s social clubs. The Dutch have tried for most of this decade to discourage this – and have largely failed.
What it very well might be, however, is a catalyst for change. A before and after moment if you will.
The Swiss are moving ahead with recreational and medical trials. The British, whatever their relationship with the world after Halloween, are too.
Luxembourg, whatever it ends up being, in other words, is well timed, if nothing else, to be a reference point if not conversation starter about real reform.
Including of course, medical impact, if not, beyond that, efficacy.
Here is where Luxembourg might in fact, be much closer to the Dutch experiment than any other place. Despite the fact the country has had a coffee shop culture for over 30 years, and Dutch medical cannabis is exported to countries all over the world, here is what is missing in Holland: Medical health insurance coverage for patients. In fact, Dutch insurers, en masse, stopped reimbursing the drug as soon as Germany changed its insurance rules in March 2017.
If that is on the agenda for Luxembourg, in other words, no matter how exciting a timeline for recreational is anywhere in Europe, this will be a pyrrhic victory indeed.