There is nothing more important to the legal marijuana industry than how it’s regulated; after all, if there are no rules, then there is no game. In this month’s legislative roundup, we take a look at Arkansas, Florida, New York, and Montana and check up on how they are regulating their respective medical marijuana programs.
When Arkansas legalized medical marijuana, many outside observers were understandably surprised. Most people don’t associate the conservative state with marijuana, but nonetheless advocates were able to muster enough support; passing with 53% of the vote.
In the 2017 legislative session, the Arkansas legislature was busy passing a series of laws regulating how medical marijuana could be used and by whom. While most of the legislation passed ranged from the mundane to the disappointing, the legislature actually managed to reject some of the more restrictive measures proposed.
For example, Senate Bill 238 would have delayed the implementation of the program until marijuana was legal nationwide. Another proposed measure, Senate Bill 357, would have banned the smoking of medical marijuana. Also rejected was Senate Bill 333, a measure essentially banning commercial edibles.
Arkansas may not be the most liberal when it comes to medical marijuana, but it continues to be the most surprising.
Speaking of surprising, Florida continues to be a disappointing surprise. Despite the many months that the legislature had to pass some form of regulation, neither the state House or Senate could agree on how to exactly do that.
The legislature did come close to passing a bill, however disagreements over dispensary caps led to negotiations collapsing mere hours before the session was set to expire. There are growing calls within the state, including voices from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, for a legislative special session.
Under state law, a special session may only be called at the request of the governor (who has so far proven to be unwilling) or by the consensus of both legislative houses. If a special session is not called, then it will be up to the state Health Department to develop the rules.
After a rocky implementation, New York has slowly started to get on track with its medical marijuana program. In March, the state added chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions, causing the number of patients enrolled to rise.
Additionally, the state has been considering increasing the number of licensed medical marijuana providers from five to 10; but that has been met with a lawsuit from four of the already licensed providers.
In the suit, the plaintiffs claim that low patient demand has caused many of their businesses to operate at a loss. By adding more licensed providers, the suit argues, the state will destabilize the market and cause the existing providers to go out of business.
Regardless of the suit, the state Department of Health plans going forward with its license expansion and is expected to award five new medical marijuana licenses by the end of May.
Ever since Montana passed I-182, which overturned SB 423, the state’s medical marijuana program has been on the mend. According to Marijuana Policy Project, SB 423 caused approximately 12,400 patients to lose access to medical marijuana; so the state is in the process of playing catch up.
The most recent action made by the Legislature has been to enact SB 333, a bill regulating the state’s medical marijuana program. Including in the bill are provisions for seed-to-sale tracking and testing requirements.
Other provisions in the bill have caused controversy. For example, SB 333 requires patient ID cards to have the patient’s picture on it. The bill also limits the number of plants a patient can cultivate and bars patients the use dispensaries from also possessing marijuana plants.
SB 333 is currently awaiting the governor’s signature.
What’s going on with medical marijuana in your state? Let us know in the comments below!
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