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June 7, 2017
Marijuana Legalization Vetoed in Vermont
On May 24, Republican Governor Phil Scott vetoed a marijuana legalization bill in Vermont. At Medicine Man Technologies, we’ve enjoyed seeing greater marijuana acceptance across the country’s legal landscape. Unfortunately, they can’t all be victories – fortunately, this is not where the story ends.
Gov. Scott provided a detailed response stating his concerns and requesting modifications. In his letter, he said, “I will provide the Legislature with recommended changes, and if we can work together, we can move forward with this issue.” The matters he brought up may be discussed during a 2-day veto session scheduled for later this month and could potentially lead to a revised bill for Gov. Scott to approve.
The Basics of Bill S.22
What makes Vermont’s marijuana legalization bill so unique is that it wasn’t originally passed by a ballot initiative. Instead, it was first introduced in the state’s House of Representatives by co-sponsors, Republican Tom Burditt and Democrat Maxine Grad. In the House, it narrowly passed by a 79-66 vote and was then sent along to the state’s Senate where it was supported 20-9.
The bill that landed on the Governor’s desk would have allowed adults 21 years and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate a maximum of two mature and four immature plants in a secure location. Legalization would have gone into effect on July 1, 2018.
S.22 also sought to establish a 9-member, Marijuana Regulatory Commission to study and develop a system and regulations for a retail, adult-use marijuana market. The group’s first meeting was set for August 1, 2017 and their first report due to the General Assembly and governor by November 1.
Like many other states, the bill included standard limitations such as not providing marijuana to anyone under the age of 21, not being able to consume marijuana in public or while driving, as well as making it illegal for someone who provides home-based day care to use or cultivate at their location.
The Governor’s Response
At Medicine Man Technologies, we were encouraged to see some open-minded thought in his response letter. Gov. Scott began by saying, “With a libertarian streak in me, I believe that what adults do behind closed doors and on private property is their choice, so long as it does not negatively impact the health and safety of others, especially children.”
His recommendations included clearly defining severe penalties for dispensing or selling marijuana to minors, especially when on school grounds. He also requested the establishment of strict penalties for not only marijuana consumption while driving, but consumption while driving with a minor in the vehicle which may affect the child due to secondhand smoke.
As for the Marijuana Regulatory Commission, Gov. Scott wants a more comprehensive member base, including representatives from the Department of Health and Department of Taxes, plus substance abuse professionals. He also suggested giving the group more time to complete its examination and submit final recommendations regarding:
- Appropriate regulation and taxation of a legal, adult-use retail marijuana system
- Revenue needed for regulation, enforcement, administration, education and prevention
- Establishing a threshold for driving while impaired and testing method
- A strategy for the education and prevention of drug use by minors
- Plans for ongoing monitoring and reporting of any public health effects
The governor stated, “We must get this right. That means letting science inform any policy made around this issue, learning from the experience of other states, and taking whatever time is required to do so.”
So, What’s Next for S.22?
Bottom line, either a revised version of the marijuana legalization bill must be passed by the House and Senate then submitted to the governor during the upcoming veto session, or it will have to be put on hold until January of 2018 when the state’s legislature reconvenes.
Revising and passing a new bill this June would require a two-thirds majority in the House to vote for a rule suspension that would then allow the process to be fast-tracked. Unfortunately, S.22 barely passed in the House the first time around and Minority Leader, Republican Donald Turner, has asserted that his 53 members would not support the rule suspension and therefore, it would not be approved.
If Rep. Turner is correct, one option would be to extend the veto session beyond the 2 days which some see as a waste of taxpayer dollars. Another possibility would be for Gov. Scott to create the regulation and taxation commission via executive order now. Then, if the legislature votes in favor of legalization in January, the original timeline and the July 2018 effective date would likely remain intact.
As Vermont waits to see how their legislature moves forward with creating a new and improved S.22, Medicine Man Technologies will be sure to provide the latest updates. Despite the fact that marijuana legalization was vetoed in Vermont, we truly see that it’s inevitable and look forward to supporting those wanting to start their own legal enterprise in the state. Consulting to cultivation and operations, we offer years of experience and expertise to our clients nationwide.
June 1, 2017
New Recreational Marijuana Bill Introduced in New Jersey
In a state where the governor is vehemently opposed to legalization, many people were surprised when a new recreational marijuana bill was introduced by State Senator, Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), in May. Here at Medicine Man Technologies, we’re honored to have been part of this movement, meeting with both Scutari and Senate President, Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), last October to show them how a legal, safe and regulated industry has greatly benefited Colorado.
The plan for the new bill includes waiting for New Jersey’s Governor, Chris Christie, to exit the office in January 2018. During his “Ask the Governor” radio program last November, he made his stance on legalizing marijuana very clear. In regard to the estimated $300 million in tax revenue the industry could potentially generate, he said, “There is nothing we spend in government that is important enough to allow me to willfully poison our children. That's blood money.”
Meanwhile, 58% of respondents to a Rutgers University-Eagleton Institute poll support legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana for adults 21 and over, showing the governor is out of step with constituents.
New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana History
Back in 2010, the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was passed and signed by then Governor, Jon Corzine (D), on his last day in office. With Gov. Chris Christie on board the very next day, things have been anything but easy for doctors and their patients. The state registry didn’t come online until August of 2012 and even today, only 5 of 6 permitted treatment centers are up and running.
Unlike other medical marijuana programs, New Jersey’s is unusually strict in a number of areas, such as requiring patients to be reassessed by their physician for 30, 60 or 90-day certifications. As for qualifying conditions, PTSD wasn’t added and signed into law by Gov. Christie until 2016. Now in 2017, the state Medicinal Marijuana Review Panel has finally recommended additional conditions, including migraines, Alzheimer’s disease and chronic pain related to arthritis, sciatica, diabetes and more.
Due Diligence Despite Chris Christie in Office
While Senator Scutari’s original, 2014 bill to legalize recreational marijuana didn’t get off the ground, he and other supporters have been busy with Gov. Christie in office.
A 2016 report by the New Jersey Policy Perspective and New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform found that legalization would generate approximately $1.2 billion in direct sales and $300 million each year once a graduated tax increase was fully implemented. The report also stated, “Legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana will increase public safety, improve our criminal justice system, enhance racial justice, protect young people, save resources, bolster public health, and generate revenue.”
Later in the year, Senator Scutari led a group of legislators from both parties on a Colorado fact-finding mission to see how our industry is currently operating in the state. During their visit, the delegation met with Medicine Man Technologies Senior Consultants, Carrie Roberts and Matt Best, for a tour of our facility and discussion of both the benefits we’ve achieved and challenges we still face. After the trip, Sweeney commented, “I was on board before we went, but I am absolutely sold that this industry can be regulated. It's safe, it's well managed. Colorado has done an amazing job.”
Even attendee, Declan O'Scanlon (R-Monmouth), who has yet to decide on which way he would vote, had this to say, “There’s very little downside.”
The New Garden State Recreational Marijuana Bill
With Gov. Christie’s term ending and the numerous benefits of legalizing adult use marijuana being brought to light, things are looking up for Senator Scutari’s bill, and we’re hopeful that it will be passed despite a few flaws. Let’s take a look at what the measure would entail for New Jersey:
- Possession of up to 50 grams would first be decriminalized (with a maximum fine of $100) while the full program gets up and running.
- Legalization of recreational marijuana for adults 21+ in the following forms and quantities: one ounce of marijuana, 7 grams of concentrate, 16 ounces of infused products in solid form and 72 ounces in liquid form.
- Establishment of the Division of Marijuana Enforcement within the state Department of Law and Public Safety. Within a year, the group will be responsible for implementing new regulations, as well as helming licensing programs for growers and distributors.
- Gradually increased taxation on sales: 7% in year one, 10% the next, followed by 5% increases until a final rate of 25% is reached.
- Flexibility for local governments to forbid or strictly regulate marijuana businesses.
- Prohibition of growing marijuana in your own home.
As you can see, the last two are a bit troubling and out of step with other states where adult use is legal, but we’ll see how this develops once the bill progresses through the legislature.
Who Will Be the Next Governor of New Jersey?
This is the $300 million question and final piece of the puzzle, so let’s take a look at the candidates. Democrats Phil Murphy (front-runner) and Jim Johnson support legalization, while John Wisniewski wants marijuana decriminalized and a legal framework developed for the market. Another Democrat, State Senator Ray Lesniak also backs decriminalization but is not on board with full legalization.
On the other side of the aisle, Republican front-runner and current Lt. Gov., Kim Guadagno, is against recreational legalization but wants to make it easier for patients to access medical. She’s also open to exploring decriminalization. Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, who voted against expanding medical use, only supports decriminalization for offenses involving small amounts of marijuana. Finally, there’s Steven Rogers who is in favor of medical marijuana but opposed to recreational.
With the 2017 gubernatorial election just around the corner in New Jersey, the team at Medicine Man Technologies is hoping to see voters make the right choice for the state’s economy and its citizens. Electing a supportive governor and passing this bill will certainly usher in a new era of opportunity for both those involved in the marijuana industry, as well as sustain numerous social programs. We’ll be sure to give you an update as the race for Gov. Christie’s office heats up over the coming months.
Looking to launch a legal enterprise if New Jersey passes recreational marijuana? Our experts are here to help. Medicine Man Technologies will guide you through each step and help you get a running start at success.
May 2, 2017
Legislators Change Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment
During last year’s November elections, Medicine Man Technologies was happy to see that Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, was passed by slim but definitive 53% of voters. It was set to allow critically ill patients to safely acquire and seek relief from their ailments using medical marijuana approved by their primary care physicians.
Now, in April of 2017, the state’s legislature has passed 24 laws changing what voters approved last year. Each one passed with the required two-thirds vote and 15 of them were sponsored by Republican Representative, Douglas House, who was tasked as the point person for marijuana legislation.
While many of the new laws limit how medical marijuana may be used and who may use it, news outlet KATV reports that the sponsor of the amendment, David Couch, took these changes in stride. “They did some crazy things, but it wasn’t anything that would affect the overall stability or the overall ability to get medicine, marijuana to the patients,” he said.
Here’s a quick round-up of the laws passed affecting the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment:
Act 4: Gives the state 180 days instead of 120 to develop rules and pushes out the date for the Medical Marijuana Commission to accept cultivation and dispensary applications from June 1 to July 1.
Act 5: Because there is no medical standard regarding the effectiveness of marijuana, a patient’s doctor is no longer required to certify that the drug’s benefits outweigh the risks.
Act 479: Bans Arkansas National Guard or U.S. military members from being patients or caregivers, and bans use on all property controlled by those entities.
Act 593: Provides more entitlements for employers such as the ability to enforce a drug-free workplace, including drug testing. Based on “good faith belief” they can take action against an employee for using marijuana during work hours or on-site. Action includes barring employees from certain positions, up to suspension and termination.
Act 638: Rolls the Medical Marijuana Commission, responsible for dispensary and cultivation licensing, into the state’s Department of Finance and Administration.
Act 640: Bans advertising, marketing and packaging that would attract the attention of children. Art, signage and product design will all be subject to scrutiny.
Act 642: Along with licenses for cultivation and dispensaries, there will now be a licensing process required for transporters, distributors and processors.
Act 670: Changes where medical marijuana funds go, funneling them to the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Implementation and Operations Fund with any remainder going to a general revenue fund. Previously:
- 50% for grants to technical institutes and vocational-technical schools
- 30% to the state General Revenue Fund
- 10% to the Department of Career Education for workforce training programs
- 5% to the Department of Health
- 2% to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration Division
- 2% to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Division
- 1% to the Medical Marijuana Commission
Act 740: Bans smoking medical marijuana in the same areas where tobacco is banned and for anyone under age 21. It’s also banned in the presence of a child under the age of 14, a pregnant woman, in a motor vehicle or anywhere else that it will affect a non-authorized person.
Act 906: Provides more than $4 million for the Medical Marijuana Commission in 2018.
Act 1022: Allows licensed cultivators and dispensaries to import seeds, cuttings, clones and plants.
Act 1023: Bans vending machines and use of marijuana at dispensaries and cultivation facilities. Also requires childproof product packaging. And all food/drink mixes (edibles) must not contain more than 10 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that provides marijuana’s psychological effects.
Act 1024: Requires all dispensaries to have a licensed pharmacist available during operating hours.
Act 1935: Allows public schools to ban students from attendance (including events) if it is believed that they are impaired by medical marijuana.
Changes that failed included acts calling for the delay of medical marijuana legalization in Arkansas until it was legal at the federal level, banning smoking marijuana anywhere in the state, and making it illegal for anyone except patients and caregivers to combine marijuana with food and drink.
As you can see, each victory for marijuana legalization still faces a gauntlet of challenges, which is why Medicine Man Technologies works diligently as an advocate for our clients and the industry as a whole. We’ll be sure to keep an eye on the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment as the implementation phase begins, and we hope to see the state’s lawmakers respect the original ideals approved by voters.
Looking to enter the Arkansas cannabis market? Contact our expert consultants for help. Like our Colorado clients, you’ll face a number of hurdles, and we can help you navigate your way to success.
April 27, 2017
Medical Marijuana Now Legal in West Virginia
If you haven’t heard the news yet, Governor Jim Justice signed SB 386 into law on April 19, making West Virginia the 29th state in the country to provide acutely ill patients access to legalized medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. Here at Medicine Man Technologies, we were excited to see another state provide the compassion and care that so many American desperately need and deserve.
While much of West Virginia’s medical marijuana legalization efforts unfolded over just the last couple of months, legislative approval can likely be attributed to an in-depth report published last August.
This detailed report, from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, focused on the economic and budgetary effects that legalization would have on the state. Their findings included a ballpark figure of $45 million in potential tax revenue (at a rate of 25%) and another $17 million in savings on marijuana-related law enforcement. It also highlighted the positive impact that legalization would have on curbing the state’s opioid-based painkiller epidemic by providing an effective, “less addictive” option.
Fast forward to March of this year when Senator Richard Ojeda and 11 co-sponsors introduced SB 386, which would legalize medical marijuana. By the end of the month, the “West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act” was approved by the Senate with an overwhelmingly positive vote of 28-6 and sent to the House. While House Speaker Tim Armstead is known for being staunchly against even considering any medical marijuana bills, SB 386 passed in the House with a 76-24 vote on third reading and after revisions.
The Basics of SB 386, What’s Legal and What’s Not
While the original Senate bill suggested the creation of a 16-member Medical Cannabis Commission to administer the program, the passed version charges the Bureau of Public Health with regulating medical marijuana growers, processors, and dispensaries. A diverse advisory board will also be established to provide the bureau with recommendations as it implements the new program.
The Senate bill that was passed also specifies a list of qualifying medical conditions, including terminal illnesses, cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, Parkinson’s, and more:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Spinal cord damage
- Epilepsy / intractable seizures
- Various types of neuropathy
- Huntington’s disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Sickle cell anemia
Of course, patients must first be certified by a registered physician who has been treating them for their qualifying condition for at least 6 months and must remain in their doctor’s care for this condition. If a physician is caught certifying a non-qualifying patient, they can face felony charges.
One point of contention, and we hope to see this amended at some point, is that the law eliminates the sale or use of marijuana in flower or leaf form. It also does not allow home growing. What is allowed are pills, oils, gels, tinctures, creams and ointments, as well as vaporization (non-whole plant). Dispensaries are also not allowed to sell edibles, but patients can mix legal forms into their own food and drinks.
The newly passed law also allows patients to only possess a 30-day supply of medical marijuana, though there is no clear way to define such a supply as of yet. However, patients or caregivers possessing more than this amount of cannabis will face up to six months in jail. We’ll see how this plays out.
If You’re Looking to Set Up Shop in West Virginia
While the Bureau of Health is yet to develop the rules or process applications and business licenses, taxes and fees have already been established:
- Grower/Processor Application – $5,000
- Grower/Processor Registration (per location) – $50,000
- Dispensary Application – $2,500
- Dispensary Registration (per location) – $10,000
- Taxes are 10% on sales from growers/processors to dispensaries
Just 10 permits for growers (up to two locations) will be issued, along with 10 processor permits and 30 dispensary permits. Businesses will be required to use seed-to-sale tracking and meet rules the bureau implements for delivery, transportation, recordkeeping, security, and surveillance.
While patient cards aren’t expected to be issued until July of 2019, Medicine Man Technologies is very encouraged by this development in West Virginia. If you’re looking to apply for a business permit in the state, please feel free to contact us. We’ve been working closely with individuals and businesses across the country to plan, launch and operate successful, fully-compliant cannabis enterprises. Let us put our consulting experience to work for you!
March 29, 2017
Medical Marijuana Grow Licenses Up for Grabs in Ohio, Who Will Profit?
Here at Medicine Man Technologies, we’ve been keeping a close eye on the news as more and more states legalize recreational and medical marijuana. What we’ve seen is that the vast majority of new laws are being passed without clearly defined regulations or infrastructure. This has left the door open for debate as the government agencies tasked with implementation start to roll out rule-making plans.
In Ohio, the state’s Department of Commerce is responsible for determining how many cultivators the state will allow based on the anticipated demand. Currently, the agency plans to grant 12 large-scale and 12 small-scale grow licenses. According to recent estimates, these 24 license holders stand to profit from a medical-marijuana market with a projected net worth between $200 million and $400 million.
Because Ohio is the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana, there are numerous, more experienced cultivators from several other states eyeing Ohio as their next lucrative venture. Of course, this is not sitting well with native, Ohioan growers looking to establish a foothold in the new industry. That brings us to the question at hand – with just 24 grow licenses up for grabs in Ohio, who will profit?
Status of Legalized Medial Marijuana in Ohio
Ohio’s Governor, John Kasich, signed H.B. 523 into law on June 8, 2016, establishing the state’s new medical marijuana law. The House added its approval on May 10, followed by the Senate on May 25, and the new law went into effect on September 8, 2016.
Now, Ohioans who have a qualifying condition (listed in Ohio’s medical marijuana law) and a written statement from their physician will have legal protections for possessing a 90-day medical marijuana supply. Like many other states, Ohio requires an established physician-patient relationship.
Until the cultivation rules are hashed out, patients are required to purchase their medical marijuana from other states where it’s legal and bring it back to Ohio. Unfortunately, home growing for personal use is not allowed in Ohio, neither is smoking cannabis. However, marijuana may be vaporized, and patients also have the option to use extracts and infused products such as food items.
Cultivation & Ohio Department of Commerce
As we said earlier, those who want to commercially grow medical marijuana will be required to apply with the Ohio Department of Commerce. Some basics have already been established such as not being able to grow within 500 feet of a school, public playground, church, public park or public library. Those who apply for a license may also be disqualified due to certain criminal convictions.
Now, here’s what’s causing a lot of debate amongst growers contending for one of the 24 licenses being made available. Factoring into the review, but not required, is proof that the company is headquartered in Ohio, owned by Ohioans and has plans to hire in-state workers.
According to Kevin Schmidt from the Marijuana Policy Project, competition for the required medical marijuana grow licenses will be tough for Ohioans going against versed companies from out of state. And many Ohioans are calling for the Department to make residency a requirement throughout the first year at least. Competition isn’t the only reason, either. Local companies and cultivators also state that:
- Ohioans were the ones on the ground, fighting to pass the law
- Out-of-state companies will want to bring out-of-state workers
- Such a workforce will not improve Ohio’s unemployment stats
- Profits and generated revenue will not benefit Ohio or Ohioans
Bottom line, many believe that Ohioans should be given a chance to establish themselves first.
At Medicine Man Technologies, we know very well that such a request is certainly reasonable. Here in Colorado, license applicants were initially required to live in the state for at least two years. The state has only recently reduced that time to one year in order to open the market to out-of-state investors.
A Case for Allowing Out-of-State Companies
On the other side of the argument are companies pointing out the fact that licensing in Ohio comes with hefty fees and financial requirements, which has led them to seek out-of-state partnerships. Here’s a look at those figures:
- Level I: $20,000 application fee and $180,000 license fee
- Level II: $2,000 application fee and $18,000 license fee
- Applicants would have to show liquid assets by level $500,000 / $50,000
- An escrow account or surety bond of $750,000 / $75,000 will be required
Along with gaining access to the necessary capital, these Ohio-based companies are looking to their experienced out-of-state investors to help with the complicated process of applying for a cultivation license, as well as properly establishing a successful medical marijuana business.
Also lumped into the out-of-state group are actual Ohio natives who moved to states with legalized marijuana to learn the industry and bring their knowledge back home.
When to Expect a Decision on Residency
All medical marijuana fees, residency requirements and other licensing matters will be reviewed by a panel of Ohio state lawmakers and should be finalized by May 6. At Medicine Man Technologies, we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on the decision so that we can guide our Ohio clients through next steps.
Looking to enter the emerging cannabis industry in Ohio or any other state? Medicine Man offers the experience and knowledge you need to plan, apply and launch a successful, fully-compliant enterprise. Contact us for details, and we’ll start with a personal consultation to discuss your needs and plans.