Our Current Blog Articles
October 9, 2017
Tasmania Launched a New Medical Cannabis Program
The Australian state of Tasmania launched a new medical cannabis program on September 1, 2017, and it’s unlike many others of its kind. At Medicine Man Technologies, we typically see medical marijuana programs include a long list of qualifying conditions, new infrastructure requirements, as well as a litany of regulations for cultivation, distribution, licensing and sales. Tasmania’s program is far less formal, and so far, a lack of foundation seems to be hindering the ability of patients to get the medicine they need.
According to a report by ABC Australia, the Tasmanian Medicinal Cannabis Controlled Access Scheme is being stalled by widespread confusion and too much paperwork. During the first month of the program, just three applications have been submitted to the Health Department with none approved at this time, and there is no further information available as to when any decisions will be made.
So, what exactly is the holdup? Once you look into how this new program works, the issues are more than apparent. While a more experimental approach can certainly be appreciated, Tasmania’s absence of infrastructure may ultimately hurt the patients for whom the scheme was created.
About the Medicinal Cannabis Controlled Access Scheme
When Tasmania launched a new medical cannabis program, it was a step forward. Its intent is to enable patients to seek a prescription for unregistered medical cannabis after other medicines and treatments were unsuccessful. Prescriptions in pill form, oral drops, topicals and mouth sprays would be filled by a Tasmanian Health Service hospital pharmacy. Smoking and growing medical marijuana are not allowed.
Now, putting this into practice becomes more complicated.
A patient must first consult with their general practitioner (GP) and be referred to a relevant medical specialist who will then determine whether or not medical cannabis would be an appropriate treatment for the condition and patient. Next comes hours of paperwork which is then submitted to the Health Department for review. Finally, each application is evaluated and approved on a case-by-case basis.
If and when the specialist is given the green light to prescribe, one interesting benefit of the program is that the patient will only pay the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (available to all Australian residents) co-payment of $40. All other costs for the program will be subsidized by the Tasmanian government.
Beyond the process to seek and fulfill a prescription for medical cannabis are a number of other issues that many feel the program will need to overcome to ensure its success. They include:
- Qualifying Conditions – There is no specific list of conditions that qualify for medical cannabis. While a lack of restrictions might seem like a benefit, it leaves a lot to be determined by GPs, specialists and the Health Department. Two patients suffering from the exact same debilitating condition may have completely different outcomes.
- Lack of Knowledge – According to the government flowchart for practitioners, specialists are required to consider their expertise and qualifications to recommend medical cannabis. They must also review evidence of the potential effectiveness in context with a patient’s condition, and perform a risk/benefit analysis in regard to safety, quality and efficacy.
With doctors facing such a tall order, it’s no wonder that in the ABC article, a multiple sclerosis sufferer who was denied by her specialist had this to say, “My neurologist refuses to prescribe, he says there's not enough research, not enough evidence, he's not at all willing.”
- Long Waits for Patients – As the program rolls out in the coming month, there is concern that case-by-case application reviews will create a massive bottleneck and force patients to wait an undetermined amount of time to receive the medication they need.
Now that Tasmania launched a new medical cannabis program, the Medicine Man Technologies team is interested in seeing whether or not this new approach to a medical marijuana program actually has the ability to flourish. While we hope that Australian patients will receive the care they deserve, it remains to be seen whether or not this less formal program will actually be able to meet their needs.
October 1, 2017
Medical Marijuana Bill in the Philippines Will Advance
In a stark juxtaposition to President Rodrigo Duterte’s notorious anti-drug stance, a medical marijuana bill in the Philippines will advance. Here at Medicine Man Technologies, we’re hopeful that HB 180 will overcome future hurdles and be passed. Known as the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, the bill would give patients with specific, debilitating conditions access to medical cannabis and expand the country’s research into its medicinal benefits.
As for Duterte, he appears to be on board and has stated, “Medicinal marijuana, yes, because it is really an ingredient in modern medicine right now. There are medicines right now being developed or already in the market that (contains) marijuana as a component.”
While the outcome of the medical marijuana bill in the Philippines still remains uncertain, our team at Medicine Man Technologies will be keeping an eye on its developments. What’s so startling to us is that Duterte has waged a violent “war on drugs” in his country, including cannabis and other “hard drugs". His vastly different views on medical marijuana are certainly unexpected.
President Rodrigo Duterte's War on Drugs
Prior to being elected just in May of last year, Duterte spoke to a massive crowd about his stance against drugs. In his speech, he declared, “If I make it to the presidential palace I will do just what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, holdup men, and do-nothings, you better get out because I'll kill you.”
He won the presidential election with just under 40% of the vote.
After taking office in June of 2016, Duterte followed through on this campaign promise immediately. To date, the president’s war on drugs has led to the killing of around 7,000 Filipinos with other estimates somewhere between 10,000 to 12,000 citizens. Deaths are attributed to the Philippine National Police and vigilante killings instigated and incited by Duterte and his senior officials.
Even if the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act passes, recreational marijuana use will continue to be illegal. Punishment for just a few grams includes massive fines, as well as decades and even life in prison. And while the death penalty for drug offenses was abolished in 2006, the country’s House of Representatives has now passed a bill to revive its use for certain drug-related offenses.
Details of the Medical Marijuana Bill in the Philippines
Despite the country’s violent recent history, HB 180 survived over a year of scrutiny and debate in the House. If passed, the new legislation would require the Philippines Department of Health to establish, license and manage a system of Medical Cannabis Compassion Centres. Regulations for distribution and sales will be developed by the country’s Drug Enforcement Agency.
Patients will need to be issued an identification card by a certified physician with whom they have a “bona fide” relationship. The doctor must also be educated on both the benefits and effects of medical marijuana use. Minors will also have access with the consent of a custodial parent or legal guardian who has been fully informed of the benefits and risks of medicinal marijuana.
And while raw, flower and hash forms will unfortunately not be legal, qualified patients will have access to edibles, tinctures and capsules. Currently, patients with the following conditions will qualify:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord
- HIV and AIDS
- Admitted into hospice care
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Rheumatoid arthritis and chronic autoimmune inflammatory disorders
Other conditions may later be added later by the Department of Health if recommended by a panel of doctors assembled specifically to make a determination.
While this medical marijuana bill in the Philippines will advance to the next level, it remains to be seen if legislators can secure its passing. At Medicine Man Technologies, we’re hoping that patients will finally get the medicine they need without having to risk their lives using an illegal black market. As the drama continues to unfold, we’ll be sure to give you further updates.
September 8, 2017
Compromise Bill Affecting Recreational Marijuana in Massachusetts
A compromise bill affecting recreational marijuana in Massachusetts was signed by Governor Charlie Baker in July. While Medicine Man Technologies was excited to see the state pass Question 4 with 56% of the vote during the November 2016 election, a legislative conference committee has now enacted significant changes to the original ballot measure.
In December of last year, recreational marijuana in Massachusetts became legal for adults to possess, use and grow. As predicted at the time, shaping the state’s legal cannabis market became bogged down in bureaucracy, delaying the development of infrastructure and policies. Because of this, the scheduled date to accept license application has been pushed out six months to April 1, 2018 with the earliest date for legal sales to commence targeted for July 1st. And that’s just the start.
Let’s take a look at some of the most noteworthy changes included in HB 3818 and what that means for recreational marijuana in Massachusetts going forward.
Sales May Not Be Available Everywhere
The new compromise bill sets up a system that allows communities to opt-out, more specifically the 91 municipalities that voted against Question 4. Until December 31, 2019, the decision to ban or limit recreational marijuana businesses in these areas is solely up to the city council or board of selectmen.
For those communities where Question 4 passed, a ban would be far more complicated, requiring the development of an ordinance or bylaw that would first have to be passed by the city council or board of selectmen. Then, with the mayor’s approval, it would go to the voters via regular or special election. As of January 2020, this will be the standard process for any cities or towns that seek to implement a ban.
Excise Taxes on Marijuana Sales Go Up
When the original ballot measure for recreational marijuana in Massachusetts passed last November, voters approved the following tax structure: 6.25% state tax, plus a 3.75% marijuana excise tax, and an optional local tax of up to 2% for a total of 12% maximum.
While legislators originally wanted to more than double that total amount, the compromise landed on the figure of 20%. The marijuana excise tax is now 10.75% and the local option is capped at 3%. While this number is not what voters approved, it’s not the highest in the nation.
Market Regulatory Structure Expands
Control of both medical and recreational marijuana in Massachusetts will be consolidated under the same regulatory authority, the Cannabis Control Commission and Cannabis Advisory Board. The CCC, which has direct regulatory control (including licensing) will expand from 3 members to 5, while the advisory board, which will provide input and recommendations, will now consist of 25 members.
So far, the CAB includes a wide range of members, including John Carmichael, the police chief from the town of Walpole and a staunch opponent of cannabis use, as well as Kim Napoli, a labor lawyer and co-founder of a Boston hemp products store. It also includes state business leaders, entrepreneurs and an adolescent substance abuse professional.
As for the Cannabis Control Commission, there has been quite a bit of controversy since 4 out of the 5 appointed members voted against Question 4. Leading the group is chairman, Steven Hoffman, a former business executive who voted “no” on recreational marijuana in Massachusetts. When questioned by the media, Hoffman clarified that he’s not opposed to legalization and that his vote reflected concerns regarding the short implementation timeline the ballot measure proposed.
Ahead of the CCC implementing new regulations, the compromise bill already states the following:
- Licensees can have no more than 3 marijuana retailer licenses, 3 medical marijuana treatment center licenses, 3 marijuana product manufacturer licenses, or 3 marijuana cultivator
- Penalties for adults 18-21 possessing under two ounces (formerly one) will be reclassified as civil offenses, and criminal offenses for home cultivation by those under 21 have been eliminated.
- Individuals with prior convictions for marijuana possession can have those records sealed.
We’ll see in the coming months if the CCC adheres to the new timeline and the market for recreational marijuana in Massachusetts finally gets off the ground.
While the election was a big step forward and the bureaucracy a step back, our team at Medicine Man Technologies is hopeful that adult use marijuana is finally on track for Massachusetts. If you are looking to enter the state’s market, our consultants can help you clear any further hurdles and establish a highly successful enterprise when July 2018 finally arrives.
September 1, 2017
Michigan Recreational Marijuana May Face Bigger Hurdles
Two ballot initiatives are now underway for the 2018 election, but it appears that Michigan recreational marijuana may face bigger hurdles than being passed by voters. Medicine Man Technologies has seen it firsthand, the often cavernous gap between legalization and full implementation of both medical and adult-use recreational marijuana. In Michigan, it’s no different – in fact, it might be more complex.
Medical Marijuana’s Rocky Road Since 2008
In November of 2008, Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved the compassionate use of medical marijuana by a vote of 63%. Known as the Michigan Medical Marihuana Program (MMMP), it allowed qualified and registered patients to cultivate up to 12 plants in an enclosed and locked area at their home, as well as possess up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana. It also allowed caregivers to grow 12 plants per patient, up to 5 patients.
While the initial passing of the law was a step in the right direction, MMMP was meant to be further expanded by lawmakers tasked with establishing industry regulations and framework for cultivation, dispensaries, production, transport and more. This infrastructure never materialized. Now, Michigan’s patient population has grown to over 200,000 and the medical marijuana industry has developed in a more organic and less regulated way, with caregivers creating co-ops and hundreds of dispensaries not licensed or protected by the state, but allowed by local governments.
Finally, in September of 2016, three bills were passed and signed by Governor Rick Snyder to regulate the program. Let’s take a quick look at some of the new rules that were passed:
- Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) will continue to oversee the program, and a new Medical Marihuana Licensing Board will review and approve licenses.
- As of December 15, 2017 (tentatively), applications will be accepted to operate as a grower, processor, transporter, provisioning center (dispensary), or safety compliance facility (testing). There will be restrictions on overlapping interests.
- License applicants must not have been convicted of or released from incarceration for any felony, including drug-related convictions, in any state for the past 10 years.
- Along with the application fee, there will also be an annual fee of $5,000 assessed, deposited into the Marihuana Regulatory Fund and used by the state to operate the program.
- Licenses for growers include three cultivation limits: Class A – 500 plants, Class B – 1,000 plants and Class C – 1,500 plants.
- Transporters will not take ownership of any medical cannabis or arrange contracts among other businesses. Transport will require 2 people, one remaining with the vehicle at all times.
- At dispensaries, patients will pay the state’s sales tax as well as an added 3% tax at the register. They will also be able to purchase marihuana infused products such as topicals and edibles.
While these regulations were welcomed by some, it remains to be seen whether existing dispensaries will be shut down and their operators forced to start over from scratch. This could leave thousands of patients without access to medication. Here at Medicine Man Technologies, we truly hope that the state will find a way to make the transition as seamless as possible for patients.
What Does This All Mean for Recreational?
With so much turmoil and an unstable medical marijuana program, it looks like Michigan recreational marijuana may face bigger hurdles than similar programs in other states. Will the new medical regulations be applied to the adult use recreational market, or will it be another 8 years before lawmakers fully implement a program? For now, proponents of two potential ballot measures are focused on 2018.
Currently, the most viable campaign for recreational marijuana is the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act which is spearheaded by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. On August 15th, the group stated that they are close to securing 200,000 signatures and on track to achieve their goal of 366,000 signatures. At that point, 252,523 will need to be validated to get on the ballot in 2018.
This ballot measure would allow adults who are 21 years of age or older to possess up to 2.5 ounces on their person outside of their home, 10 ounces inside, plus whatever they have growing legally from up to 12 total marijuana plants in a single residence (locked and out of sight). All use in public and driving under the influence will remain illegal.
It will also require the formation of a state-regulated system to license, manage and tax the cultivation, testing, processing, transport and retail sales of marijuana and marijuana-infused products for adult use. While the proposal does outline certain regulations, such as additional taxes, more work will be needed for the program to launch – and as we’ve seen, it could take time.
Another initiative, Abrogate Prohibition Michigan, seeks to amend Michigan’s constitution to end "all prohibitions on the use of cannabis in any form by any person" as well as abolish regulations, including the imposition of taxes, fines and penalties for marijuana use. Because its sponsor, Timothy Locke, seeks to amend the state’s constitution, a total of 315,654 validated signatures will need to be collected. At this time, the initiative appears to lack the support needed, financial and logistical, to make the ballot.
There’s no doubt that Michigan will experience numerous changes through the end of this year and the coming election year. With the state’s new medical marijuana laws going into effect, it will likely indicate whether or not Michigan recreational marijuana may face bigger hurdles than winning over voters.
To assist with the complexities and changes, Medicine Man Technologies is available to all enterprises and individuals that want to enter the Michigan marketplace, either medical or adult-use recreational. We offer a variety of options, from seminars to private consulting and much more. We’ve assisted legal cannabis operations from coast to coast, and we’re here to support you, too.
August 8, 2017
Canada Looks to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
At Medicine Man Technologies, we’re keeping a close eye on our northern neighbors as Canada looks to legalize recreational marijuana for adult-use by July 2018. In April of this year, a plan was announced by the Canadian government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. If passed, the law would make them the second nation in the world to make such a move. Uruguay was the first.
The plan includes developing a system for Canada’s federal government to regulate marijuana cultivation, distribution and sales, as well as manage licensing, taxes and all associated fees. Provinces would then have the ability to pass further laws regarding sales and distribution, as well as increasing the minimum legal age of 18. In addition to retail purchasing, adults would be able to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana and grow up to four plants per household.
Like many legal, adult-use recreational marijuana laws here in the states, Canada would prohibit driving while impaired and implement strict laws regarding taking marijuana over its borders.
On his website, Prime Minister Trudeau stated, “Canada’s current system of marijuana prohibition does not work. It does not prevent young people from using marijuana and too many Canadians end up with criminal records for possessing small amounts of the drug.”
Three Major Hurdles
While the bill is yet to receive Parliament’s official approval and may face some changes before becoming law, its outlook is good. Canada’s House of Commons is controlled by the Liberals and an even more liberal faction, the New Democratic Party, is also on board with legalization. As for Conservatives, they are a small minority and don’t pose any substantial threat to the bill.
One wild card is Canada’s Senate which typically does not veto or delay legislation passed by the House. However, they have recently begun to assert more authority, so interference should not be completely ruled out. Beyond adult-use recreational marijuana passing Parliament, there are three major hurdles that will also need to be addressed. Let’s take a closer look at those.
- Withdrawal from International Treaties
Since 1961, Canada has signed three UN drug treaties pledging to ban marijuana. Leaving these treaties requires a notice period. However, in order to keep the promise of legalizing marijuana by July 1, 2018, Canada would have needed to give the UN notice by Canada Day which has now passed. There are still ways to legalize marijuana without violating the treaties, including a delay of the legalization date, constitutional amendment (not likely), or on the grounds of performing scientific research. This final option would require some legal creativity to achieve. How Canada plans to accomplish this still remains to be seen.
- Efforts to Change the Advertising Rules
In accordance with federal task force recommendations, adult-use recreational marijuana businesses would only be allowed to distribute basic details, much like rules for the tobacco industry, such as price, strain, and company name. Now, Canadian marijuana businesses have joined forces with Advertising Standards Canada to draft guidelines and lobby the government to be able to advertise and brand their products. Their goal is to be able to better differentiate their products from each other and those sold on the black market.
- Canada’s Premiers Want More Time
Because Canada has empowered each territory to decide its own regulations for taxation, as well as determine who is allowed to sell, consume, and purchase adult-use recreational marijuana, Canadian premiers have indicated that they need more time to develop these rules. They’ve met with push back from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who has insisted that the country will meet the July 1, 2018 date. The government has stated that it has a backup plan for those provinces that fail to establish regulations, though details are not yet known.
Here at Medicine Man Technologies, we are hopeful that the bill will be passed and everything will be in place as Canada looks to legalize recreational marijuana for adult-use by July 2018. If you are planning to enter Canada’s adult-use recreational marijuana market next year, please reach out to our team for assistance. We offer consultations on all aspects of the business, ensuring you’re in compliance and on the right track for success.