What’s happening this week in states breaking into the medical and recreational scene: Alaska’s lieutenant governor signed off on recreational regulations, Hawaii legislators are trying to restrict home cultivation for patients, Illinois dispensaries are struggling with too few patients, Maine’s legalization initiative qualified for the November ballot, and one New York assemblyman wants to double the number of dispensaries in the Empire State. The details:
On Jan. 22, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott signed the final marijuana establishment regulations, which will go into effect on Feb. 21. The state’s Department of Law pointed out that cannabis testing, which is required by the new rules, could present an issue because of the state’s access and transportation issues. Many rural growers don’t have access to roads, and the Federal Aviation Administration frowns upon transporting cannabis to testing labs via air freight. In trying to address the issue, state lawyers found the statute’s language to be too vague and left the issue unresolved.
The Alaska Marijuana Control Board will begin accepting license applications for cannabis businesses on Feb. 24, with licenses to be issued beginning on May 24.
State Rep. Marcus Oshiro, D-Oahu, introduced House Bill 1680, a measure that could change the way Hawaiian patients access medicine. The bill would prohibit patients from growing their own cannabis, instead requiring them to obtain it from newly licensed state dispensaries. If the law passes, it would go into effect July 1, 2017, one year after dispensaries are slated to begin distribution. As the law is currently written, Hawaii’s caregiver program will cease to exist starting in 2018.
Twenty-two Illinois dispensaries are licensed and fully operational today, but without a significant increase in the number of patients, leaders in the Illinois cannabis industry are worried they won’t be able to stay in business. When the program was devised, state officials expected 30,000 registered patients by this point. Today’s reality: Fewer than 5,000 patients are registered, which has left the industry unstable.
Despite concerns and pleas from patient advocates, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, Dr. Nirav Shah, rejected requests to expand the list of qualifying conditions. The decision goes against the advice of the state’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, which had recommended eight conditions be added to the list of qualifying ailments, including autism, irritable bowel syndrome, osteoarthritis, post-traumatic stress disorder, and multiple types of intractable pain.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Maine (Regulate Maine for short) is now the official campaign for legalization in in the state, having joined forces with Legalize Maine. The campaign has turned in 103,115 signatures, well over the 61,123 needed to qualify for the November general election. Campaign leaders report that they’ve received more than $334,000 in contributions to date. The initiative would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and grow a limited number of plants at home.
New York Assemblyman Richard Gottfried has introduced Assembly Referendum 9151, which would double the number of medical marijuana manufacturers and dispensaries in the state. The law currently allows five organizations to operate 20 dispensaries in 13 counties. That leaves 49 counties unaccounted for and makes for only one dispensary for every 978,000 New Yorkers. Under the proposed legislation, the state health commissioner would be allowed to reconsider medical marijuana applications submitted last year, and the Department of Health would have to authorize five more organizations by Jan. 17, 2017.